Is the launch of ciders from the big beer brands good or bad for drinkers?

Walking into a supermarket and you’d be forgiven for thinking that cider is the nation’s new favourite beverage. The aisles are packed with apple, pear and other fruit variants. For many Strongbow, Magners and Bulmers are the main names they’d associate with cider. More surprising is the arrival of ciders from the big lager producers: Carling’s British Cider following hot on the heels of Carlsberg’s Somersby and Stella Cidre.

Display panels showing the range of ciders available in Tesco Express

Display panels with various cider brands in Tesco Express

It’s no surprise that the big boys are diving into the cider market. Sales are up massively with 60% of consumers now drinking cider, an increase of 47% since 2011. A measure of the importance of the cider category is the level of marketing investment behind these launches. From Sommersby poking fun at Apple to billboards from Carling, the big players are gambling heavily on grabbing a large slice of this lucrative market.

Billboard advertising for Carling Cider and Thatchers

Billboard ads for Carling’s new cider and Thatchers.

Is this fondness for cider from the big lager brewers good or bad for consumers? As consumers seek out new drinking experiences they’ve been moving away from the standard beers and ciders into a plethora of craft and artisan brewery products. Beer fans in particular are enjoying the fruits of a renaissance in craft brewing with a huge choice of products driven by canny, digitally led marketing and social media. Advocacy is key here. In the beer category it’s a trend the big brands are hoping to emulate with their own premium/craft offerings.

So can Molson Coors, Carlsberg and Inbev benefit from these trends and gain market share, customer loyalty and profitability? On the one hand their entry into cider is good. It raises awareness of the category and will drive more drinkers to try cider for the first time. This in turn should benefit the smaller brands as cider converts seek out alternative products.

Of course their success depends on the quality of the ciders themselves. Early reviews on the blogsphere haven’t been overly positive of any of these. We couldn’t consider the issue without getting our resident cider aficionado to put Carling, Carlsberg and Stella’s offerings to a taste test. Sarah’s review will follow in a separate post.

To grow the overall market, Carling et al need to deliver a quality product that drinkers enjoy. If the product quality isn’t there, then not only is the massive investment wasted it could actually steer drinkers away from the category. The biggest risk is that they simply become fodder in the ongoing price discounting we see in supermarkets. Average quality products sold cheaply will sell and sell well. They won’t drive a long-term renaissance in cider though and may hinder, rather than help, the brilliant efforts of the smaller independent producers.


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Categories: Cider


  1. Big brand ciders battle it out in the taste stakes | citysuppers - July 12, 2013

    […] this is good or bad news for drinkers, is a topic that Jason has tackled on his blog post so I wanted to tackle the taste […]

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