Cider pips lager in popularity stakes among young drinkers

The old image of cider drinkers. Picture: Getty
The old image of cider drinkers. Picture: Getty
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CIDER’S growing popularity among younger drinkers has pushed up sales of the drink, putting it on par with lager for the first time, according to a new study.

Figures from the consumer analysts Mintel show that cider has bucked the economic climate that has resulted in flat sales for many alcoholic drinks.

Cider: now the choice of the younger set. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Cider: now the choice of the younger set. Picture: Phil Wilkinson

Significant growth over the past five years has resulted in cider sales equalling those of lager, at a time when lager sales are declining. It is now poised to overtake lager, if sales continue to rise. Cider’s success has been put down, in part, to its increasingly popularity among younger drinkers.

Ten years ago, 42 per cent of Britons said they were cider drinkers. This has now grown to 47 per cent. The Mintel survey showed 46 per cent of adults said they were lager drinkers.

In terms of actual sales, beer has seen the most dramatic decline, losing £2.2 billion in revenue between 2006 and 2011 mainly due to the dramatic decline of the pub sector. Meanwhile, wine has seen a drop in the proportion of drinkers from 66 per cent in 2007 to 58 per cent in 2011, according to the Mintel report.

Mintel’s senior drinks analyst Jonny Forsyth said: “Cider has been particularly successful at attracting younger drinkers from the ailing lager category, as well as from alcopops and wine due to a combination of impressive innovation and marketing nous.”

He said cider is the undisputed success story of the alcohol market over the past six years. Volume sales of cider increased by 24 per cent between 2006 and 2011 and its sales increased from £1.7 billion to £2.4bn.

With pubs seeing record closures since 2008, cider has performed well above the market by recording 25 per cent growth in revenue – albeit a lesser five per cent growth in real value sales between 2006 and 2011. The cider sector has potential for much more growth with Mintel forecasting volume sales to increase by 12 per cent between 2011 and 2016 and value sales by 33 per cent.

Mr Forsyth said: “This is in a highly challenging context for alcohol, but cider has had the advantage of a lower tax than borne by many competitors which it has invested wisely – especially in constant innovation.”

He said there is further opportunity for the sector as cider falls massively behind lager in volume consumed, meaning its revenue of £2.4 bn in 2011 is a fraction of the UK lager market’s total revenues of £11.4 bn.

Today, a third of alcohol drinkers (34 per cent) who do not drink cider claim that it “never occurs to them to do so” rather than them actively disliking it. Mr Forsyth added: “This is a result of cider not being able to compete with lager when it comes to being a “session drink” rather than something you have one or maybe two glasses of, due to the sweetness of its flavour.”

He said cider has seen particularly steep growth in the off-sales trade over the past five years, experiencing a 67 per cent increase in volume sales and doubling its revenues between 2006 and 2011. Cider’s share of supermarket shelf space has grown exponentially and in 2010 accounted for 40.7 per cent of UK cider volume sales.

A poll of more than 680 people by Mintel found that 58 per cent claim cider is more refreshing than lager.

Nearly half (49 per cent) said cider has a fresher taste while 44 per cent prefer its sweeter taste, 27 per cent drink it for a change and one in five (21 per cent) claim it’s less gassy.