What does the decline of pear ciders mean for the category?

What does the decline of pear ciders mean for the category?

The Grocer is reporting the decline of pear ciders with sales down 29% and the fall knocking more than 25% off the value of the market. Pear’s share of the cider market has fallen from 9.3% to 6.4% over the same period (year to September 2014). So what’s behind this? Is it purely down to the success of fruit ciders? And which brands are the most effected by this? More importantly, what are the implications for the cider category as a whole?

Pear is down, fruit is on the up

The data shows an ongoing 2.6% year-on-year decline in January 2014, down 8.7% YOY in March and 17.4% YOY in June. The article also shows Nielson data that shows sales down 28.7% YOY (to September). The five leading pear brands all saw double digit falls with Strongbow Pear declining by 42%.

This isn’t necessarily bad news. Fruit cider is in growth rising 35% with Strongbow Dark Fruit tripling its sales. The view is that pear’s decline reflects the emergence of more choice from the fruit ciders and that pear is now one of many fruit cider choices. If the overall category is growing then pear’s woes may be nothing to worry about.

Does fruit recruit consumers into cider or fruit cider?

A big takeout from fruit’s growth is that it’s a brilliant category recruiter. Yet the view of the analyst quoted is that cider drinkers fall into two camps: apple lovers and fruit lovers. If this is the case, what happens when growth slows and fruit cider loses its appeal to consumers? Fruit cider growth has already slowed so is it losing its shine?

How are brands going to get consumers to trial apple and to bring in new consumers? Apple is in slight decline so this should be a concern for the producers. There’s a risk that the fruit cider category has become very fashionable. Lots of flavours supported by big marketing have worked: consumers clearly love it. If growth is slowing, what next for the fruit cider producers?

Do drinkers see fruit as a cider? Or is it just the latest, most fashionable RTD? When you look at the Grocer’s top 100 alcohol brands the biggest growers included Rekorderlig and Kopparberg. It also included tequila beer, Desperados which grew by 107%. Many see this as an RTD too. The risk for the cider producers is that fruit is hot now but is it a long-term winner?

One of the biggest falls in this year’s list was WKD. So is fruit ciders growth from younger drinkers who are moving from one fashionable brand into the next, ‘cool’ brand? You only have to look at Magners to see how a once trendy brand can see big declines once consumers find something new.

The chart below shows the top 10 ciders (off-trade). Looking at the growth shows the impact fruit is having on a number of brands.

List of the top 10 UK cider brands (by off trade retail value)

So is fruit the saviour of ciders? Not necessarily. Not everyone has chosen to play in this space and it’s not stopped them seeing growth. Frosty Jack’s continues to see impressive growth in value from its core, high strength cider despite a slight dip in volumes.

Weston’s too saw impressive growth of 22% yet it’s avoided the big producers rush into fruit. Its focus has been innovating around traditional ciders: Wyld Wood organic, cloudy Old Rosie and mulled cider all contributing to its growth.  This could well be the cleverest approach for the overall category. Rather than bringing new drinkers into fruit who don’t then progress to apple, Weston’s is looking to grow apple with different styles and variants. The results suggest that this along with its investment in marketing is paying dividends.

The National Association of Cider Makers sees fruit and pear as successfully recruiting people into the category. The risk is that they aren’t recruiting consumers into the wider (and larger) apple cider category. There is a danger that the decline of pear ciders presages a decline in fruit as consumers buy into the next big brand. Getting consumers into apple with innovation, variety and trial is clearly key to the sector’s long-term prospects.