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Westons Cider Report shows strong sector growth

The 2020 Westons Cider Report shows a category that has remained strong in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, with off-trade sales spiking and non-mainstream products growing market share

Darryl Hinksman, Sally McKinnon Westons Cider

The annual UK Cider Report from craft producer Westons Cider has revealed a bumper 2020 for the category in the off-trade, despite losses from the on-trade due to Covid-19.

The category's overall value dropped by 32.1 per cent to £2.1bn, thought to be largely due to the loss in on-trade sales - where cider averages three times more per litre than in the off-trade.

In line with the hospitality shutdowns in place in the UK for much of 2020, there was a significant swing towards the off-trade. According to Westons, it accounted for 83 per cent of the volume of cider sales and 63 per cent of the total value.

Almost one million extra shoppers bought cider in the off-trade in 2020 compared with 2019, generating £1.3 billion in sales (up 21.2 per cent from 2019).

Westons brands, including Henry Westons and Stowford Press, performed well among mainstream and premium competitors including Strongbow, Koppaberg, Magners and Thatchers.

The company saw sales growth of +26 per cent in 2020 and held on to sixth place in the list of the country's top 10 cider makers. Its Henry Westons Vintage cider - which grew by 20.3 per cent in the year - was named as the seventh best-selling cider brand and the best-selling 'crafted cider' brand.

Darryl Hinksman, head of business development at Westons Cider, said orders placed with the company so far ths year suggested that on-trade demand would recover, and that the demand for crafted ciders would continue to grow.

"We have shipped a lot of kegs out in the last week or so. A lot of on-trade data suggests there is significant demand among consumers to start visiting pubs again. We have got some big sporting occasions coming up across the summer, which are key events for cider in the on-trade."

He added: "Consumer engagement has grown exponentially. We have many more people who are engaged with us and feel some loyalty to our brands."

There was also substantial growth in online sales of cider, which accounted to 9.8 per cent of cider category spend compared with 6.7 per cent in 2019. In response to growing demand, Westons said it had invested significantly in its ecommerce operation.

Amid the shift in where people bought cider, there was also a shift in the type of cider being purchased. Sales of crafted ciders shot up by 48.7 per cent in the year; they now make up 14 per cent of total cider category value, and increased their on-trade share from 12 per cent to 13.1 per cent. 

Sally McKinnon, head of marketing at Westons Cider, said: "Covid has allowed us to get more people into craft cider. People are enjoying many more premium occasions and Covid offered an opportunity to premiumise people's drinks.

"There is a need to keep people interested in craft cider... As lockdown eases, that premiumisation will continue. Mainstream cider is still a huge portion of the market so there are quite a lot of up-selling opportunities there."

She added: "It feels like a now-or-never opportunity for us to take that excitement around craft cider and bring it to more people on a bigger scale."

In keeping with broader trends in the alcohol industry, the no and low-alcohol cider subcategory increased in value by almost one-third, from £17.1 million in 2019 to £22.7 million in 2020. Westons said this growth was partly due to increased household penetration for the cider category, which rose by seven per cent to reach 47.7 per cent in 2020.

There were also big gains for the subcategories of cloudy cider (+104.1 per cent) and rosé cider (+481.3 per cent).

16 April 2021