Sally McKinnon Westons Cider’s Head of Marketing

Sally McKinnon is Head of Marketing at Westons Cider, Britain’s leading authentic cider maker, with brands including Henry Westons and Stowford Press. This summer Westons introduced a new-look for its Rosie’s Pig brand. The newly designed Rosie’s Pig Rhubarb, is now available in a four-pack canned format. Sally McKinnon spoke to Wholesale Manager.

How would you sum up the Westons proposition?

For nearly 140 years we’ve put our passion, pride and expertise into every drop of our award-winning ciders. Rather than looking ahead 3-5 years, we endeavour to ensure Westons will be around for the next 140 years.

Can you talk us through your brand portfolio? Which are your bestselling products?

We have a broad portfolio but our bestsellers are Henry Westons and Stowford Press. Henry Westons is number one glass bottle apple cider in the off-trade. To leverage Henry Westons Vintage’s success, we recently launched a new variant, Henry Westons Aged Finish, with a great depth of flavour and lower ABV. Stowford Press has also seen phenomenal growth, partly driven by canned formats’ premiumisation and popularity and Stowford Press Mixed Berries’ launch in 2018, Westons’ most successful ever NPD.

How is the cider market developing?

Cider is going through a shift, with fruit cider commanding 40% of total sales. These drinks are a great vehicle for wholesalers to help independent retailers attract new consumers, appealing to nontraditional cider drinkers like women and younger people. While fruit ciders are increasingly popular, apple cider still plays a big role, especially premium and traditional apple ciders like Henry Westons. We recommend retailers ensure 60% of their cider offering is apple ciders and 40% is fruit ciders.

What’s the rationale for the Rosie’s Pig Rhubarb launch?

Launching Rosie’s Pig Rhubarb responds to two of the biggest drivers of off-trade cider growth, fruit cider (+15.1% volume YOY) and canned formats (+9.3% volume YOY). The refreshed look gives increased shelf stand-out, indicating the flavour variation while calling out the cloudy liquid Rosie’s Pig is known for.

What’s the history behind the Rosie’s Pig brand?

All our brands have a great back story. Rosie’s Pig was one of Westons’ first delivery trucks and this personality is prominent. Henry Weston was our founder and Caple Road is the road to our cider mill.

Are ciders “craft” drinks as such?

The term “craft” can be challenging – consumers often associate numerous meanings with the word, usually creation process or design. According to Ipsos MORI, 24% of consumers associate craft products with ‘quirky design,’ which influenced our re-design of the Rosie’s Pig branding. We use only local apples and oak to age our products and, in that respect, all of our range is crafted.

We hear a lot about fruit ciders. How fast are they growing and what’s driving the growth? How do British fruit ciders compare with other countries?

Apple remains dominant, accounting for more than half of all off-trade cider sales and up 3.4% by value year-on-year, but fruit continues to grow, with sales up 11.4% in value, securing £1 of every £3 spent in the off-trade.

Fruit cider in Britain mostly consists of berry varieties (influenced by the local fruits grown in the UK) while fruit ciders from other countries has taken a more tropical approach. We don’t use fruit juice from concentrate and we make the most of local produce.

These new packs are in cans. What does that add for consumers?

Multipacks improve the value proposition for wholesalers’ retail customers, adding newness and excitement to the fixture with more opportunity for branding vs. space on a single can. The size and format of cans are convenient, portable and fridge-friendly meaning consumers can have a cold drink on hand in the summer months.

Is more NPD on the way?

Wait and see! With such a focus on insight and trends, we like to be ahead of the curve and last October, following our most successful ever on-trade launch, we released Stowford Press Mixed Berries into retail. Within six months, we sold 1 million pints and in the first year, 1 million litres – a fantastic achievement.

How are you helping your wholesale customers grow their business?

Seasonality is key for wholesale – the biggest driver of incremental cider sales in the off-trade during 2018 was the World Cup – although sunny weather and local events also have a big impact. It’s important to upweight product placement and visibility at these times.

Finally, what are you doing to promote Westons’ cider brands to consumers?

Along with PR and social media, we have numerous brand partnerships, from Cheltenham Jazz for Henry Westons to rugby partnerships including Gloucester for Stowford Press. We also run TV campaigns. Last year, Stowford Press benefitted from ‘The Wonderfulness of Local’ campaign, emphasising its 100% locally-sourced apples.