Summer is one of the biggest trading periods of the year and presents a key opportunity for retailers.

This shift is of particular importance for the cider category as consumers look for more refreshing options and flavours to enjoy.

“Retailers should ensure they’re getting the basics right by stocking a staple range including Strongbow Original and Strongbow Dark Fruit – the number one and two cider line extensions,” comments Toby Lancaster, Category and Shopper Marketing Director at Heineken UK. “New for this summer, retailers should also look to stock the recently launched Strongbow Rosé which, with its signature refreshing taste, is set to lead and grow the category, offering potential for incremental sales for retailers who stock it.”

Retailers can cater for consumers looking for more exotic flavours by stocking Old Mout which is currently worth £28m (Nielsen). Its Pineapple & Raspberry variant, launched in March 2019, is now the number one fastest growing cider line extension in the UK (Nielsen).

With consumers twice as likely to purchase for consumption from the chilled range during the summer months (HIM), ensuring your beer and cider offering is properly chilled is crucial. “Small packs, such as Strongbow Rosé 4x440ml and Heineken 4x440ml, and large single bottles, such as Birra Moretti and Bulmers, which are quick to chill should be the focus,” adds Lancaster.

With consumers spending more time in the garden during the lighter evenings, the summer creates a new set of drinking occasions as consumers look to enjoy BBQs. As part of this, there is naturally the desire to pair the perfect drink with their BBQ food of choice and, as such, beer and cider food pairings are more popular than ever thanks to the wide range of flavours the category offers.

Consumers now have a heightened expectation of premium food and drink offerings in store, with 39% of shoppers more inclined to trade-up to premium food and drink options when dining at home (HIM). Retailers should therefore look to cross-merchandise food and drink to drive sales.

“Positioning beers such as Birra Moretti, or for those moderating, Birra Moretti Zero, alongside fixtures that feature BBQ food is a great way to capitalise on sales,” suggests Lancaster. “Equally, Bulmers Original, which is made with 100% British apples and is now free from artificial flavourings, colours and sweeteners, pairs perfectly with barbecued food.”

One of the key factors driving the category during this season is the increasing demand for premium products, as identified in the We’re Worth It driver of Heineken’s Greenpaper. Although maintaining a strong mainstream offering is key, with 38% of UK Beer and Cider shoppers currently buying into premium brands (Kantar), the value of the category cannot be ignored.

“With shoppers more inclined to trade-up to more premium food and drink options as a treat during the warmer months, including more premium offerings such as Old Mout Pineapple & Raspberry and Birra Moretti – one of the fastest growing alcohol brands in the UK Off-trade- is crucial in encouraging customers to trade up,” Lancaster continues.

The no and low category has continued to boom in the last year, driven by a shift in drinking habits, particularly amongst Gen Z shoppers, who are looking for options to moderate both their alcohol and calorie consumption.

To capitalise on the trend, retailers should stock a strong no and low alcohol range, including favourites such as Heineken® 0.0 which has swiftly become the fastest growing brand in the segment, with a growth of 65% (Nielsen). In terms of cider, Strongbow has been at the forefront of the trend towards moderation, removing artificial sweeteners, colours and flavours from all its variants and launching Strongbow Dark Fruit 0.5% earlier this year. The new variant is completely vegan, and at just 73 calories per bottle, delivers an alternative option for drinkers.

“Retailers who cater for the no and low trend should ensure they are signposting their range in store by implementing Zero Zones to highlight the no & low options available, while educating shoppers on the benefits of these options,” suggests Lancaster.

Jessica Markowski, Sales Director of Convenience and Wholesale at Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I, comments: “Beer continues to be an incremental sales driver within the grocery channel. It’s the second largest category by value driving the second highest growth – demonstrating the importance of a well-stocked beer fridge which also caters for evolving consumer preferences.”

A strong no and low offering is now a must for retailers, with 42% of adult drinkers saying that they have made efforts to reduce their alcohol intake at some point in their lives. The no and low beer and cider category is worth £84.6m per year and has experienced +25.5% YOY growth, so presents a clear opportunity for stores to boost revenue.

“While shoppers are increasingly interested in no and low alcohol options, we know they are not willing to compromise on taste,” adds Markowski. “We recently launched two new alcohol-free products, Budweiser Zero and Stella Artois Alcohol Free, which allow retailers to offer shoppers alternatives for their favourite beers that still deliver on taste and quality.”

Budweiser Zero, at zero alcohol, zero sugar and only 46 calories, is an alcohol-free alternative to Budweiser, the second most valuable beer brand in the Off-Trade. It responds directly to consumers who are may be looking to moderate their alcohol consumption or are seeking a beer to fit their active lifestyle. Meanwhile Stella Artois Alcohol Free allows retailers to tap into the success of a growing brand – with consumers spending an extra £19.7m on Stella Artois last year.

“Retailers should also consider how to effectively merchandise their no and low selection – especially with half of consumers saying they find it difficult to see which options are no and low alcohol in store,” suggests Markowski. “Stocking best-selling brands alongside their no or low alcohol counterparts is a canny trick for retailers to showcase the breadth of options they offer.”

Considering how to cater to different consumer dietary requirements is also key. More customers are opting for “free from” options, with 23% of now following a diet that restricts some food groups – consequently free-from products are being given greater prominence in store. However, retailers’ free-from offering need not be limited to just food – Stella Artois Gluten Free offers the taste of Stella Artois for those following a gluten free diet. “Alongside this, retailers also need to ensure their beer and lager selection caters for different shopper missions – particularly as seasons change,” Markowski advises. “Over summer, more shoppers will be looking to purchase a cool beer or lager to consume shortly after. Retailers should have a range of chilled beers, including alcohol-free options, in the most popular formats.”

Canned beer sales are up 16.2% whilst single large bottles are up 7.9%, representing 8% of the beer category volume – making them a must stock.

In the off-trade, no and low alcohol cider volume grew 34% in 2019 versus 2018, with an increase in the number of households buying into the category driving this growth. New, younger and more affluent consumers are purchasing these products.

“No and low cider is dominated by brands, which account for 92% of spend. What’s great about low-alcohol ciders is that they tend to taste the most like their parent brand,” says Darryl Hinksman, Head of Business Development at Westons Cider. “However, we should remember that low-alcohol is still a relatively small part of the cider market overall at £17.1m. We’d recommend making lower-alcohol options such as Stowford Press LA available to shoppers, but retailers shouldn’t get too preoccupied with overhauling their fixtures – particularly where space is limited.”

Apple and fruit ciders should take priority in the cider fixture, particularly during the summer months, and bestsellers like Henry Westons (up +9% in convenience and worth more than £45.1 million in total retail (IRI) should be paramount. As fruit ciders account for a third of overall sales, they should take up approximately one third of the shelf space.

“In the current climate, it’s more important than ever for retailers to keep up to date with the latest stocking advice,” suggests Hinksman. “This means making the bestsellers the biggest priority and focusing on premium products which are going to sell-through and drive value growth. This is where Henry Westons Vintage comes in.”

The Henry Westons brand is the largest glass bottled apple cider in UK, growing 9.1% and worth £46.6m. Henry Westons Vintage cider is up +6.7% YOY and worth £43.3m.

One of the biggest drivers of off-trade cider growth is craft cider, up +11.1% YOY (IRI).

Chris Milton, Thatchers Cider Off Trade and Export Sales Director, says: “The low and no offering within cider has been driven by fruit ciders up till now, there hasn’t been a premium apple cider widely available and able to provide the taste and quality that shoppers are looking for. It’s clear that drinkers want their alcohol-free cider to taste like cider, which is vital for repeat purchase.”

Thatchers Zero is a no-compromise no-alcohol cider, it has been over two years in development with Thatchers’ cidermaking team, in line with the principle, “if it isn’t good enough it doesn’t leave the farm.”

“We see that alcohol-free is growing into an important addition to drinkers’ repertoires, and we worked hard over two years to get Zero to the point of getting the quality and taste good enough,” adds Milton. “We’ve seen the beer sector move this way, and we anticipate cider following suit.”

Like all Thatchers ciders, Zero is suitable for vegetarians, vegans and is gluten free.

Martin Thatcher, managing director of Thatchers Cider says, “During lockdown, we’ve seen a continuation of growth for our ciders in the off trade, in particular noticing on trade consumption of Thatchers Gold, shifting to off trade sales; and the 2020 launch of our new Thatchers Cloudy Lemon. There has been extreme pressure put on the off trade during the lockdown, but the major multiples and the convenience sector have risen to the challenge. Thanks to the huge contribution of our staff, we have been able to maintain and increase the supply of our ciders through strong retail distribution during this time.”

This summer Thatchers has unveiled Thatchers Cloudy Lemon Cider. A naturally cloudy Somerset cider, it’s balanced with the zesty zing of lemon that provides a balance to the sweetness of the dessert apples blended in this lightly sparkling cider.

Available in 4x440ml cans, Thatchers Cloudy Lemon (4%) uses sweet dessert apples including Braeburn, Gala and Red Spur with Jonagold apples giving its natural cloudiness.

The 440ml four pack has an RRP of £5.50.

David Sheppy, Master of Cider at Sheppy’s Cider, comments: “Summer often brings a new wave of cider drinkers to the market, as consumers seek out light and refreshing drinks, with a tendency to lean towards fruity flavours. This provides an excellent opportunity for retailers to push the ranges they currently stock, as well as look to the innovations in the craft cider space to really maximise the summer season.”

Whilst fruit varieties are integral to enticing summer cider drinkers, flavour balances are important to bear in mind, based on Mintel’s research which found that 25% of customers say that being too sweet is a significant barrier. It also can’t be ignored that a considerable number of people claim to have cut down their alcohol intake and with an increased emphasis on health following the coronavirus pandemic, consumers are likely to value lower ABVs more than ever before.

Sheppy’s premium-flavoured ciders cater for those customers who enjoy a drier taste to sweeter, more commercial fruit ciders. On pack, it is clearly communicated that the ciders are made with fruit, rather than being a fruit cider. Crisp, well-balanced and blended using traditional cider apples, Sheppy’s Cider with Raspberry is an option for those looking for a more authentic fruit cider offering. Not too sweet, and with a lower ABV, it gives retailers an unrivalled premium option.

In the same range sits Sheppy’s Cider with Elderflower, a cider which is suited to those searching for a refreshing summer drink. As with the raspberry variant, it is named ‘Cider with Elderflower’ rather than ‘Elderflower Cider’ to emphasise that the apples used play an important part in the taste.

Timed to coincide with the summer months and in light of the trend towards lower ABV cider varieties, Sheppy’s most recently launched Sheppy’s Redstreak. Made with traditional Somerset Redstreak apples, the new launch is a medium-sweet single variety cider with an ABV of 4%.

“The Redstreak apple is a personal favourite of mine so being able to introduce our newest cider, which has a wonderfully refreshing flavour, is a real joy,” David Sheppy added. “Lower ABV innovations are more important than ever to maintain volume growth and keep drinkers interested in cider, which is why we wanted our Redstreak to sit at 4% ABV. It’s perfect for long lazy days in the sun and hopefully for enjoying at socially distanced summer social occasions.”

Looking ahead, cider drinkers have a lot to be excited about. Greater consumer demand for quality continues to have a positive effect on the category and retailers should capitalise on producers which shoppers trust to deliver on this. With the current increased emphasis on at-home drinking, retailers have a real opportunity to introduce new ranges to their shelves in order to capture those new summer cider drinkers this year.

“There is no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has proved challenging and has seen our focus shift to supporting our retailers and maximising our direct to consumer offering. We were lucky to have a robust DTC set up in place which allowed us to capitalise on the consumer shift towards purchasing their favourite alcohol brands online and as a result saw traffic increase to our web shop.,” David Sheppy comments. “It has also been reported widely that consumers’ alcohol consumption has increased under lockdown, as has their support of British businesses. As a sixth-generation family business based in Somerset, we remain positive that the craft cider category will continue to grow and see new innovations come to market.”

Echo Falls has unveiled a redesign across its entire portfolio, alongside new brand positioning intended to recruit younger shoppers and expand the category.

The £135m (Nielsen) brand from Accolade Wines has given its collection a fresh look, with a modern and sophisticated design incorporating a new ‘waterfall’ asset. Created to stand-out on shelves, the designs will complement Echo Falls’ new brand ethos throughout upcoming marketing and innovation campaigns.

Part of a wider £1m marketing spend for the year ahead, the redesign reflects the accessible and approachable proposition of the brand’s drinks. The new positioning as ‘your friend in wine’ aims to attract younger shoppers (35 and under) to the category, as well as to reassure consumers on their wine journey as they navigate through the portfolio.

Consumed by over 3m UK households (Kantar), Echo Falls expects its pipeline of innovations, supported by the consumer-facing ‘Live life to the falls’ campaign, to further increase sales.

Lydia Freeman, European Marketing Manager at Accolade Wines, said: “Packaging is a key communication tool for wines. We already have the third highest wine brand awareness in the UK and this full redesign will enable us to grow our core audience (aged 30+) as well as recruiting new shoppers, the under 28s. We want to reaffirm Echo Falls’ position as the easy-going and sociable wine, perfect for a night with friends.

“A lot of younger people don’t know where to start with wine and therefore are potentially lost to other alcohol categories. Echo Falls, with its collection of fruit, spirit and botanical fusions, as well as our core range of varietals is the perfect brand to introduce wine to a new audience, boosting penetration for the entire category and increasing the likelihood of trading-up in the future. We’re looking forward to working with retailers to ensure they stock the right products for their store, helping to grow the category and boost their sales.”

The new redesigns are available in grocery, convenience, and wholesale from June 2020.

Accolade Wines has also rolled out a new range under the umbrella of the nation’s favourite fruit flavoured wine brand, Echo Falls (Nielsen).

Echo Falls Botanicals will cater to the current consumer trend in botanicals, driven primarily by gen-Z and millennial audiences. Research has shown that 73% of NoLo drinkers buy wine and, at 5.5% ABV, Echo Falls Botanicals will cater to the consumer demand for fruitier and sweeter wine styles with a lower ABV intake. Served in a 750ml/75cl bottle, the line will be available in two contemporary flavours: Melon & Mint and Raspberry & Lavender.

Growing at 2.1% YoY in the fruit flavoured wine market (Nielsen), Echo Falls is introducing a new line to its portfolio aimed at customers who are seeking lighter drinking choices.

Caroline Thompson-Hill, European Marketing Director at Accolade Wines, says: ‘‘Echo Falls is the UK’s number one fruit flavoured wine brand, worth £68.4m in a total category valued at £129.4m (Nielsen) and it’s important that the brand keeps up-to-date with trends and leads in innovation. The new Botanicals range demonstrates that Echo Falls has listened to its shoppers by bringing a refreshing and innovative style to customers, which also caters to the growing NoLo category driven primarily by younger consumers.’’

Teasing a new look for the brand, Botanicals will feature a new, fresh and vibrant direction for the Echo Falls portfolio.

Earlier this year Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) added two new tropical-themed variants to its Monster range – Monster Ultra Paradise and Monster Pacific Punch – which are likely to be popular over the summer months.

During the core lockdown period, sales of mixers were up 33%, with the Schweppes brand growing by 51%, making it the fastest-growing major mixer brand in GB during this time (Nielsen). This highlights the popular trend of consuming mixed drinks at home, which we expect to continue throughout the summer, as consumers look to treat themselves.

With more people consuming food and drink in the home, there has been an increase in demand for bigger packs, such as large plastic bottles and multipack cans of soft drinks. This trend prevailed throughout the lockdown period and is likely to continue in the summer months (Nielsen).

With growing numbers of consumers are looking to save money in the months ahead (IGD), Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) has reduced the recommended price points for its range of price-marked packs (PMPs) across its colas portfolio. PMPs offer visible value, reassuring shoppers that they can get the products that they want, at an affordable price.

CCEP’s 1.75l bottles of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar – including cherry and vanilla-flavoured variants – and Diet Coke are now available in a £1.75 PMP, and 1.5l bottles of Coca-Cola Original Taste and Coca-Cola Original Taste Cherry are now available in a £1.95 PMP.

The 2l bottles of Fanta and Dr Pepper are also available in a £1.89 PMP, with 2l Sprite PMP available at £1.69.

“We expect at-home formats to remain popular throughout the summer, as people look to stock up on drinks for summer BBQs, drinks in the garden and picnics in the park. As lockdown restrictions have now been relaxed, on-the-go consumption will pick back up,” comments Amy Burgess, Senior Trade Communications Manager at Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP). “With this in mind, retailers should keep a close eye on sales data and begin upweighting their immediate consumption drink formats (500ml bottles and 330ml cans) as more shoppers look for refreshment while out and about.”

To catch shoppers’ eyes front of store, 500ml bottles of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar – including cherry and vanilla flavours – now come in a £1 PMP, as do Diet Coke Sublime Lime and Diet Coke Twisted Strawberry.

CCEP’s 500ml bottles of Fanta and Dr Pepper also come in a £1.15 or two for £2.20 PMP, with the Sprite 500ml PMP available at £1.

In March 2020 Carabao launched its Mixed Berry flavour, which is only 63 calories per can. The new flavour was launched after Carabao noticed a significant lack of berry energy drinks on the market. According to the Euromonitor Soft Drinks report, only 1.3% of an approximate 521 million litres of berry flavoured soft drinks sold each year were accounted for by energy drinks.

The Mixed Berry flavour has already become the fastest selling flavour in the Carabao range, within a few short months after launch.

Carabao has recently launched its brand-new 69p price-marked cans in time for summer 2020 in a bid to further grow the energy drink market.

Price-marked cans are available for all Original, Green Apple and Mandarin Orange single serve (330ml) products.

Speaking on the launch of the PMP’s David Butcher, MD of Carabao Energy Drink UK&I, said: “Price-marked packs are only effective when the price that they are offering is competitive in the wider market, and many of our competitors are not offering the same value as we are in order to help entice new customers to the category. At Carabao Energy Drink we have been exploring the right price point to use in order to offer great shopper value and strong retailer margins and we are very excited to see the in-market results.”

Value sales within the soft drinks impulse category are suffering, declining at -2%, whereas energy drinks are bucking the trend to grow +1% over the same period despite the COVID-19 crisis (Nielsen). Since energy drinks represent the sector of the soft drinks category currently in growth, space in chillers should be prioritised for these products, Butcher suggests.

Not only that, when it comes to sales trends for energy drinks, data shows that retailers should be prioritising fruit flavours over original flavoured options.

While the demand for healthier energy drinks was already very evident, the current pandemic has made shoppers even more conscious of what they consume and the desire to buy lower sugar, healthier drinks has skyrocketed. ‘How the product impacts my health and wellbeing’ is now the #2 factor influencing why shoppers buy according to the Global Data COVID-19 survey conducted in April 2020, above traits like monetary cost or even enjoyment.

David Butcher speculates: “When life goes back to normal and COVID-19 restrictions are eased, we’re expecting that many of the healthier habits consumers have adopted during lockdown will continue. Energy drinks are no exception; indeed, in a category frequently vilified this shift towards healthier alternatives could well be more pronounced than in other categories.”

As the warm weather approaches, retailers should look to increase the shelf space made available for lower-sugar alternatives and the Carabao range is one option to help capitalise on this growing consumer trend.

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