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Cider sparkles, Champagne lacks lustre? UK winners and losers in 2014

By Ben Bouckley+

07-Jan-2014

Picture: Dave Clements/Flickr
Picture: Dave Clements/Flickr

Cider’s upward UK trajectory will continue in 2014 but Champagne’s struggles against rivals including Prosecco, Cava and even English sparkling wines could continue, according to Mintel.

Sifting through potential winners and losers in UK alcoholic drinks in 2014, Chris Wisson, Mintel’s senior drinks analyst, tells BeverageDaily.com that UK cider sales were still growing in volume and value terms, where the former showed the category’s strength, since inflation is driving up the value of most beverage categories.

“Although cider is slowing down – with the 2008-13 period one of really rapid growth – it will continue growing,” Wisson says.

“In terms of 2014 its performance is quite reliant on the weather again. If we have another really nice summer then categories such as cider and beer will pick up the biggest benefit.”

Discussing how cider could mature as a category, Wisson says it could take cues from the wine world, looking at terroir and aspect (the direction a vineyard faces), “all these kind of things that you don’t really see talked about a lot when it comes to apples compared to grapes for wine”.

Kopparberg, Rekorderlig still ‘absolutely flying’

But in terms of reaching millennial drinkers, flavour innovation remains key, Wisson insists, and is the reason why brands such as Kopparberg, Rekorderlig are still “absolutely flying”.

“It’s interesting that Strongbow has now gone into that market with Dark Fruits (with blackcurrant and blackberry juices) – that’s been successful for them, and their presence in flavored ciders will only benefit the segment,” Wisson said.

“They only moved into the flavour segment in summer 2012 with pear, and considering how dominant they are in sales terms [as the UK’s bestselling cider] it seems they were waiting to see if the flavoured boom would last.”

Molson Coors beer brand Carling recently moved into the cider space with Carling British Cider (launched in the off trade last March) and Wisson said its positioning as ‘brilliantly refreshing’ was effective, since refreshment is a massive driver for cider usage.

“I don’t think [Carlsberg brand] Sommersby [launched last summer in the UK] has done as well, but Carling’s offer seems to be doing pretty well,” Wisson added.

Other growth categories in 2014 include ale, Wisson said, with cask ale in particular a great way of getting people back to pubs, with 3.5-4% ABV giving a “nice, easy, light refreshing drink”.

5.5% ABV wine: ‘A good outlet for big brands’

Recently New Zealand touted its investment in high quality lower alcohol wines, and Wisson said there was UK consumer interest in lighter drinks, while lower prices were possible, due to more favourable tax rates.

(UK tax on still and made wine exceeding 5.5% but not exceeding 15% ABV is £266.72/hectoliter; it is only £113.01 on wine and made wine exceeding 4% but not exceeding 5.5% ABV.)

 “We’re seeing a lot of 5.5% wine, and it’s a good outlet for the big brands, more and more of whom are getting into that area now,” Wisson said.

“It will never be on a par with your standard 12% really, but a few brands are putting a lot of effort into developing the taste of 5.5% wine. We’ll only continue seeing improvements in standards,” he added.

“It’s a tough sell for wine because it’s such a traditional category, and we’ve only just really accepted screw caps, and boxed wine is still looked at askance though it’s getting there. It’s a tough market to change peoples’ perceptions of.

Spiced rums and sparkling wines

Turning to sparkling wines, Wisson says Champagne sales remain a “bit flat” but cites good growth in other for Prosecco, which plays on its Italian credentials as a sophisticated, affordable alternative, as well as Cava and English sparkling wines.

Flavor innovation continues apace in spirits, Wisson says – with Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey (sold in the UK on trade from May 2012) selling well and younger drinkers happy to trade up on the basis of flavors.

But he warns that any move towards outlandish flavors in vodka (along the lines of a fish-flavored US variety, for example) risks damaging the category’s credibility.

“We’ve seen less of that sort of thing in the UK though. An innovative company like Absolut chooses its flavors very carefully and packages them very carefully. So they are actually seen as adding value and premium quality, rather than making a more accessible, almost compromise offer,” Wisson says.

 “With rum we could perhaps see more flavour innovation, because spiced rum is doing very well,” he adds. “Rum is rarely drunk by itself, so dark or spiced rums that complement mixers like cola have promise.”