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Heineken to boost premium cider sales in UK

At a promotional event last week, it was revealed that Heineken’s premium cider brand Cidrerie Stassen, already stocked in UK retailer Sainsbury’s, is set to hit the shelves of Marks & Spencer in September.

Cidrerie Stassen, produced in Belgium and made from fruit grown in the Aubel Valley, will be sold in Marks & Spencer stores from September, it was revealed last week. Currently sold in Sainsbury’s, the cider is made using ‘Champagne yeast’ and bottled in Champagne-style bottles complete with a cork and muselet.

Speaking at the event, drinks writer Jane Peyton highlighted the common misconception that cider is “apple beer”.

Stassen’s Rosé cider.

“Unlike beer which is, in effect, cooked, the cider making process shares many similarities to that of winemaking. The apples are pressed to release their juice which is then fermented, either in inert tanks or in the bottle,” she said.

The presentation bottles and the glasses that the cider was served in on the night reflected this link.

“You will notice that there are no pint glasses this evening,” added Peyton. “Cider is apple wine and should be served in either wine or Champagne glasses. This is a premium product – we’re not swigging it from the bottle behind the bus shelter”.

Stassen is available in three expressions: Brut (a dry sparkling cider made from the juice of bittersweet apples blended with a small amount of pear juice and bottled at 7.4% ABV), Rosé (an off-dry sparkling cider made red fleshed Geneva apples, bottled at 7.4% ABV), and Grand Cru (a medium-dry sparkling cider made using the juice from a selection of bittersweet and dessert apples, bottled at 8.2% ABV.)

The ciders are packaged in 750ml bottles and currently retail at Sainsbury’s for £8 for the Brut, £9 for the Rosé and £10 for the Grand Cru.

Heineken bought the cider brand in 2012 which had previously been owned by Scottish & Newcastle who sold it back to the Stassen family in 2008. Stassen was also the original producer of AB Inbev’s Stella Artois Cidre on its launch in 2011, and has also made cider for the Tesco Finest range. It was founded in 1895 by Léon Stassen in 1895, who after WWII and the resulting Champagne shortage, developed a sparkling cider using a Champagne yeast strain that is still used to produce the Grand Cru.

Heineken launched the brand in the UK on-trade in August 2016. Commenting at the time, cider director at Heineken, Emma Sherwood-Smith, said: “Cidrerie Stassen is a very exciting launch for us and drinkers will be intrigued by the refined style and luxury variants of this new sparkling sharing cider. Our aim with all our NPD is to provide operators with drinks that grow their business and the category.”

“By moving out of the traditional cider drinking occasions, we can expand the category and further add to its growth.”

“We’re delighted that despite only being available in the UK off trade for a few months, all three variants have already been recognised by two awarding bodies: at the International Monde Selection competition and the International Taste and Quality Institute. It’s a great achievement for such a new brand and we look forward to seeing our customers shake-up their cider offering with our latest innovation.”

Traditional and craft cider volume (consisting of independent and regional producers) currently represents 4% of the UK market, according to Westons’ cider report 2017. In total, the cider industry is worth £2.88 billion in the UK, with the UK consuming 787 million litres of cider a year. Cider accounts for 6.6% of alcohol sales in the UK.

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