Spiros Malandrakis
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Alcoholic Drinks – August 2016 Overview of New Product Launches

This regular summary highlights the most interesting product launches in July to August 2016, with a focus on the direction the alcoholic drinks industry is taking in terms of innovative developments.

soncid3Cider: On Going Flat and Staging a Comeback

Has the seemingly infinite buoyancy finally been squeezed out of the cider category’s collective Adam’s apple? At first glance, global performance still appears intoxicating- especially considering the moribund state of adjacent categories. Witnessing global total volume growth of more than 4% in 2015, cider and perry is advancing at a speed multiple times higher than that of beer, spirits or even wine. Scratch a bit deeper below the polished apples at the top of the category’s proverbial basket though, and the first signs of rot begin to show.

Take the UK, the category’s perennial epicentre, for example. With sales nose-diving to -1.4% in 2015 – the first decline of the past decade following a bitterly flatlining performance in 2014 – things look less than rosy. Seasonal headwinds were largely to blame for a segment rivalling beer in its notoriously direct correlation to calendar days of sunshine but taking into account the consecutive years of lost momentum, the problems lie deeper than that.

And fierce, unrelenting competition from adjacent categories utilising cider’s pioneering innovation blueprint is at the core of this development. From serves of sparkling wine or even champagne over ice to waves upon waves of flavour sophistication initiatives and from artisanal semiotic and design references to a binary focus on sweet and dry styles or wheat free properties, once radical innovation synonymous with cider has been largely appropriated and is now the norm across the board.

In the US, a market where cider entered relatively recently and hot on the trails of the surging craft beer segment – whose positioning it duly adopted – total volume growth might still look explosive at 23% in 2015 but is, in fact, heavily moderating . The culprit? The birth of an entirely new RTD segment that unashamedly flirted with the taste buds of millennials looking for sweeter flavour profiles and a nostalgia spin with a twist. And hence, Hard Soda brands stole cider’s lighting.

Innovation has been and will continue to be cider’s propelling force and complacency its downfall. It will increasingly adopt more polarised cues or perish.

On the one hand convenient, modern and sustainable packaging formats like cartons will expand the spectrum of occasions in affordable price brackets and in high energy scenarios. This will create a vital line of defence against the ever evolving RTD cohorts encroaching on cider’s territory.

On the other hand, advanced and sophisticated premiumisation initiatives will come into play- a wineification direction. A more pronounced focus and clarity on fruit and ingredients used, barrel ageing, mixology credentials, cork closures and larger sized bottles alongside signature regional styles and food pairings will transform the upper echelons of the cider industry.

A dedicated Cidrothèque opening its doors in London is only a harbinger of things to come for a category ultimately coming of age.

Cidrerie Stassen from Heineken

Targeting the UK on-trade and those who “yearn for the finer things in life”, the launch will focus on higher end occasions and mature consumers (30-45-year-old adults). Housed in a 750ml bottle and closed with a cork, the cider borrows cues from the world of sparkling wine and is intended to be gender neutral in its appeal.

Resealable cider cartons from Brothers

Targeting festival goers and high energy occasions, the one-litre cartons will launch in UK supermarket Tesco from September with a full roll out scheduled for spring 2017, ahead of the festival season. The first launch is a still English apple variant called Festival Apple.

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