Western Cape Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  10 Aug 2010

BEVERAGES: Ciders Come Out Tops


Recent Western Cape Business News

South African ciders, once regarded by industry observers as a short-lived fashion anomaly, have not only proved their staying power but continue to outpace by a significant margin the national annual volume growth trend for alcohol beverages as a whole, asserts market leader Distell.

According to Kay Pillay, who heads the company’s cider and Ready to Drink (RTD) business division, genuine ciders, taken to be those made from fermented apple juice, showed a 8% year-on-year growth in volume for the 12 months to May 2010.  This compares with the entire liquor category, which remained flat for the period, according to figures supplied by the SA Liquor Brandowners Association (SALBA) and Nielsens. At the same time, the Flavoured Alcoholic Beverage (FAB) segment of the RTD market, that includes wine and spirit coolers, as well as malt-flavoured drinks, grew by 3%.

Distell is the third biggest producer of ciders globally. Its Hunter’s cider range that debuted in 1988, and Savanna brand, launched in 1996, are currently listed by Euromonitor as the world’s second and third largest cider brands respectively. Both brands are the foremost players locally and every year new export markets continue to open up for each.

Pillay attributes their extended growth trajectory, even in the face of the ongoing recession, to their authenticity, enticing flavours and quality cues. They are also well-packaged, widely distributed and supported by energetic and innovative through-the-line activity, he adds.

 “In the domestic market, there has been some public confusion as to what constitutes a genuine cider with several apple-flavoured ales masquerading as the real deal.  In the case of a genuine cider, the inimitably refreshing taste is derived from the fermentation of real apple juice, not by flavouring other alcoholic drinks with apple flavours. While consumers may not overtly be aware of the technical differences, they are nevertheless voting with their palates if we are to judge by consistent annual rise in cider sales volumes.”

Referring to the recent Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) of South Africa ruling in favour of Distell when the company lodged a complaint against the producers of an apple ale that was misleadingly packaged to create the impression that it was a cider, he says: “Several high-profile industry players have entered the market with malt-based drinks given an apple flavour that they are trying to pass off as authentic ciders. These are generally cheaper to produce than ciders and so manufacturers seek to undercut our brands on price.

Despite these cynical attempts to abuse consumer good faith, South Africans still continue to purchase Hunter’s and Savanna in large part because of their true apple taste.”

To qualify as a cider, in accordance with South Africa’s Liquor Products Act, Act 60 of 1989, products must be made from the juice derived from apples or pears.  While it is permissible to replace up to 25% of the apple juice with pear juice and still market the beverage as a cider, none of Distell’s ciders contains any pear juice.

Pillay says the growth in cider sales is not restricted to South Africa. In the UK, the world’s biggest market for ciders, the beverage is also the fastest-growing alcoholic drink, reflecting a 6,6% per annum volume increase.

Savanna also continues to grow its presence in the UK with major retail chains, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons and recently, The Coop all stocking the brand. It is also available at more than 500 pubs and bars in the country. In the Netherlands, it is stocked by retail giant, Albert Heijn. Recently, the quirky “dry but you can drink it” cider came home with the only gold medal in its class at Singapore’s 2010 Beerfest Asia, where it was up against a range of cider offerings from all over the world.

Meanwhile, Hunter’s continues to build its popularity on the African continent, says Pillay.


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