Danish brewer Carlsberg has told BeverageDaily.com that its first UK cider launch Somersby provides a ‘genuine alternative’ to standard mainstream brands and hinted that consumers preferred it in taste tests to Heineken's market leader Strongbow.
Produced in Herefordshire, UK, the cider is described as a “crisp, refreshing cider with no artificial sweeteners, flavours or preservatives”, and will initially be sold in 440ml cans and 500ml bottles.
Asked why Carlsberg UK felt that mid-July 2012 launch into Tesco (with on trade sales to follow in 2013) was the right time to penetrate the UK market, external communications manager, Joanna Dring, told BeverageDaily.com: “The cider market is showing strong performance in the UK and currently enjoying double digit growth in both the on- and off-trade.”
Worldwide, Euromonitor International data shows that the cider/perry category grew in value from ₤4.24bn (€3.44bn) in 2006 to ₤6.276bn in 2011, with the UK alone - the world's largest cider market - up from ₤1.933bn to ₤2.867bn over the same period, with over 911m litres consumed in the country.
'Artificial and astringent' rival products
Carlsberg pointed to new drinkers within the category who found the taste of established mainstream UK ciders “artificial and astringent”, and said Somersby had a more balanced taste and contained no artificial sweeteners or artificial flavours.
Darran Britton, marketing and strategy director for Carlsberg UK said: "Extensive product research with cider drinkers shows that the Somersby product is significantly preferred to the market leader."
Euromonitor data sent to BeverageDaily.com shows that Heineken brand Strongbow is the clear UK market leader (21.8% market share by volume in 2011), followed by Magners (8.8%), although Strongbow lost share compared with 2009 (24.3%).
Other Somersby rivals will include Halwood International-owned Lambrini with a 5.5% stake in 2011, Blackthorn (C&C Group) with 3.5% and Bulmers Original (Heineken) 3.4%.
Dring added: “Over recent years a number of new ciders have been brought to market, many 'served over ice,' but few challenging the mainstream ciders. Somersby provides a genuine alternative to the standard, mainstream brands.”
Offsetting beer sales slump?
Somersby was launched in Denmark and Norway in 2008, but Dring told this publication that the brand was originally developed by Carlsberg Group for Northern Europe and not the UK.
Far from being behind the curve compared to these Scandinavian nations, the UK cider market was “more developed and segmented” than other European markets, she added.
Pressed as to why it had taken Carlsberg so long to launch a cider in the UK, given that Somersby is available in 22 countries, including Northern and Western Europe and parts of Asia, and Dring said the company began work on a specific UK recipe around 18 months ago.
And to what extent was Carlsberg keen to seize the ‘cider opportunity’ to offset declines in European beer consumption?
“We are ambitious and of course, we're always looking for new opportunities. But it's not just cider. We have also just launched San Miguel Fresca – the first major brand extension for the leading Spanish lager in the UK," Dring added.