Westons Cider launches special Covid-19 edition of its annual Cider Report

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Amongst the unpredictable and ever-changing landscape of the Coronavirus pandemic the cider category has proven itself remarkably resilient. 

That’s the conclusion of Westons Cider as it today launches a special Covid-19 Edition of its annual Cider Report, which tracks the category from April to September, and follows the release of its 2020 Cider Report  published in March, a week before the UK entered lockdown. 

Taking an in-depth look into the numbers, the six-month update provides an overview of the modern cider category in the time of Covid-19 and sheds some light on consumer habits and trends shaping the marketplace during the pandemic. 

“This has been an extraordinarily challenging period for both retailers and operators, however our report shows that cider has once again shown itself to be dynamic and in demand, with premiumisation continuing to drive category growth across the on and off-trade,” explains Tim Williams, insight and innovation manager at Westons Cider. 

“Recent months have been particularly promising for crafted cider (+38.8% YoY), now the fastest growing sector in the total grocery market and convenience channels, while the average price per pint has increased in the on-trade, signalling that drinkers are continuing to trade up to more authentic and premium propositions when visiting pubs, bars and restaurants.

“Even more encouragingly, research commissioned by Westons Cider for the report reveals that the breadth of cider drinkers continues to widen. All these factors are clearly good news for the category’s long-term prospects.”

CIDER IN THE OFF-TRADE

OFF-TRADE CASHES IN ON CHANGING CONSUMER HABITS 

The off-trade quickly adapted to the market following the closure of the on-trade in March by increasing stocks to keep up with demand. The total off-trade cider category is now worth £1.3bn and currently accounts for 76% of total cider volume.

Unveiling new consumer shopping habits in the wake of the pandemic, Westons’ latest category update reveals convenience and e-commerce channels have grown substantially. In total grocery, 57% of shoppers are continuing to make fewer trips to supermarkets but spending more per trip when they go, and 20% of shoppers are not only sending more per trip, but also making more trips to store so their overall spend as increased. As a result, bigger formats have performed strongly, overall, up 10% from last year with ten packs experiencing a 34% increase in growth. 

“There have been some clear changes to shopper behaviour as consumers adapt and, as part of this, convenience stores have become even more integral to British society,” explains Emily Jenkins, category manager at Westons Cider. “For the cider category specifically, convenience spend was up 33% and online up 101% and, in all cases, new shoppers were the main driver..

“That said, convenience still only accounts for 17.7% of total cider spend compared to supermarkets which account for 56.7% of cider sales. Retailers should take note of these changing consumer habits and ensure they are stocking larger formats alongside bestsellers such as Henry Westons– worth £51.4m in total retail–to capitalise on the cider opportunity in the lead up to Christmas.

“What’s more, shoppers will increasingly expect to see no and low alternatives readily available in grocery and convenience channels as we see greater numbers looking for premium alternatives within the category.”

BUMPER CHRISTMAS FOR THE OFF-TRADE 

As figures in the report reveal cider value (+15.1%) has continued to grow ahead of volume (+12.6%), the Herefordshire cider maker predicts 2020 will be cider’s biggest ever Christmas in the channel. 

Weston’s prediction comes as the government announced more stringent national lockdown measures, which research suggests will encourage shoppers to increase supermarket spending on a par with the levels we saw in May (+57%). 

“Naturally, Christmas was always going to look a little different this year as initial restrictions suggested more shoppers would opt for at-home celebrations with friends and family throughout December. 

“Now, we’re facing tighter restrictions and in the midst of more severe social distancing measures across much of the UK, this Christmas is shaping up to be like none we’ve seen before. What we do know is that cider sales boomed during the first lockdown, with 841,470 more shoppers buying cider at home, so we can be pretty confident that cider will remain a mainstay on shopping lists as we enter the festive period,” adds Jenkins.

CIDER IN THE ON-TRADE 

MECHANISMS FOR ON-TRADE RECOVERY 

“There’s no denying it’s been a tough six months for the on-trade, but it’s certainly not all doom and gloom for the cider category. The on-trade re-opening coincided with a spell of good weather which gave the category a much-needed boost over the summer months – particularly in fruit, which tends to be most impacted by seasonality,” explains Williams.

Despite a challenging period for the on-trade, with forced closures and fewer distribution points, the cider category has showed remarkable signs of recovery, with a value rate 10% ahead of where it was a year previous throughout the summer months. 

All indications show that throughout August, the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme also provided a necessary boost for the on-trade, with 56% of people surveyed saying the felt more confident eating out as result.

In turn, this provided a much welcome boost for the cider category, which benefited from its close association with dining –  one of the key factors influencing  cider sales in the on-trade, with 39.5% of all cider serves in the UK accompanying food. Data also reveals that cider serves were less affected by the curfew limitations introduced in September than some other drinks categories.

“We know a pint of cider pairs exceptionally well with a meal. This positions the category strongly as England eases into Tier 3 restrictions from December onwards. While it is still uncertain when outlets will be able to reopen, and exactly what this will look like when they do, we expect family meals and catching up with friends to by high on the agenda,” says Williams.

LOCAL PUBS IN FAVOUR 

With more people than ever working from home and travelling less frequently, the latest insights have led Westons to predict that drinkers will spend more time in local establishments.

“Local pubs have long been the centre of our communities, but in the current climate we anticipate they will be more important than ever. This presents a real opportunity for local pubs to drive sales, by tailoring their offerings towards the preferences of their local patrons.”

FIGHTING FIT FOR THE FUTURE 

As the festive season approaches, it is likely the situation will remain unpredictable, and the Weston Cider Report Update reveals over half of consumers are not making long term plans.

“While it’s too early to predict what Christmas will look like in the on-trade this year, we remain hopeful that outlets will reopen and, when they do, confident that drinkers will return for their favourite draught offerings as we saw throughout the summer. 

“With curfews and limited numbers likely to remain in place for some time, we anticipate people will make shorter, but more frequent visits to bars and restaurants as they celebrate Christmas and outlets would do well to prepare with this in mind.

“Finally, we must remember that despite the uncertainty the on-trade has faced throughout 2020, consumer appetite for cider across channels remains strong. Demonstrated by the upsurge in off-trade sales following the closure of the on-trade in March, the  clear consumer demand for the category gives us  confidence that the on-trade will gradually return to the dizzying heights of its £2 billion value in 2019,” says Williams.

The Westons Cider Report Coronavirus Update is available for digital download on the Westons website by following the link here.