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Cider strategy rests on sunny summer

Westons cider has predicted that good weather this summer will prove “absolutely critical” to the category’s efforts to return to growth in 2013 as the producer set out plans to drive forward the “premium mainstream” sector.

During a briefing earlier this week, Westons presented data from retail tracker IRI to show that the UK cider category is now worth £3 billion in retail sales, representing 9% of the country’s total alcoholic drinks market.

Highlighting volume declines across the entire UK beers, wines & spirits category in 2012, Westons set cider’s -2.2% shrinkage against the backdrop of nearly 6% growth in 2011.

The company also highlighted its own compound annual growth rate of 12% during the last seven years, with its export business “consistently recording double digit growth.”

In addition to expansion in the US, as well as an Australian boost thanks to last year’s acquisition of its distributor, Westons is also investing in improving its facilities and orchards.

This involved a £12m investment programme to build a new bottling, kegging, storage and fermentation facilities, as well as beginning a 1,000-acre orchard expansion.

Focusing more closely on developments across the cider category as a whole, Westons pointed to “the emergence of distinct segments” in recent years.

Within this the “premium mainstream” segment has proved a particularly strong performer in the last two years at 4.3% volume growth, driven by the “largely incremental” £18.5m growth over the last year of AB InBev’s Stella Artois Cidre.

The data also credited fruit ciders from brands such as Rekorderlig and Kopparberg, which saw value sales grow by 139% and 52% respectively, with boosting this premium mainstream segment.

In contrast, the “traditional premium” segment saw -14.0% decline, while “mainstream” cider saw volumes shrink by -5.5% during this period.

Despite this shrinkage in the traditional premium segment, Westons predicted that its own growth and ongoing investment in this area, as well as that seen by competitor Aspall’s, mean that it “could be an area of significant further growth in coming years.”

The company is also looking to drive sales in the mainstream category with its Stowford Press brand. Having received its largest ever marketing investment this year, the brand will feature in a £2.5m advertising campaign to tie into Stowford’s England cricket sponsorship, including the Ashes.

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