UK cider market moving to extremes

Cider drinkers’ tastes seem to be diverging in the UK, with consumers going both up- and down-market.

Imports of alcopop-style fruit ciders are hitting big British cider-producers, according to a recent article in the Financial Times. It includes a prediction that orchards will have to be dug up as major producers of mass-market cider such as Heineken buy their way out of contracts with apple-growers.

Sales by volume have gradually declined over the past four years.  Meanwhile, ‘an increase in orchard acreage, combined with improvements in farm productivity, has coincided with a slowdown in UK cider sales, as drinkers switch to sweeter, imported alternatives using other fruit,’ says the article by John Murray Brown.

But it’s not all bad: ‘sales by value rose a modest 0.3 per cent in 2016 and are forecast to have risen 1.7 per cent last year, reflecting a move to more premium production.’

Purists wary as brewing giant buys family cider-maker

Suffolk cidermaker Aspall hit the headlines in January 2018, when it was bought by Molson Coors. The US brewing giant plans to use Aspall to ‘premiumize’ its cider range, which includes the mass market Carling Cider and Kopparberg perry brands.
Aspall has been making cider in the village whose name it bears, since 1728. Its range includes organic cider and runs from a sweetish 3.8%abv Cyderkin through to a dry 7%abv Premiere Cru, via its mid-range 4.5%abv Suffolk Draught Cyder. It also produces cider vinegar.

Aspall uses a mix of bittersweet, culinary and dessert apples of which there are 46 varieties in its orchards. Their juice is extracted with a hydraulic press, before champagne yeast is added and it ferments in steel vats. Camra does not recognize Aspall ciders as ‘real’ other than its Temple Moon, Cyderkyn and Waddlegoose Lane.

Windfall taxing: orchards could be grubbed

Cider orchards in Britain could yet again be under threat as big buyers revise their forecasts. It takes four to five years for crops to come through.

The Sun also rises to the bait

Eighth-generation cider-makers Barry and Henry Chevallier Guild, announced that they would stay with the company to provide ‘strategic direction’ and act as the brand’s ‘conscience.’ But the move was far from universally welcomed. Chauvinistic headlines attached to reports of the sale included ‘Another British favourite lost’ (The Express) and ‘Bitter taste?’ (The Sun).

Other stories referred ominously to Molson Coors’  ownership of Sharp’s Brewery in Cornwall. In mid-2015, just-drinks exclusively revealed that Molson Coors had shifted the brewing of the bottled version of its Doom Bar keg ale to its central UK brewery in Burton.

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