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The UK beer, lager and cider market is undergoing a quiet revolution, with an explosion in new tastes and flavours.Consumers are discovering and enjoying these products in their local pubs and bars and from there widening their take home drinks repertoire and seeking out the newcomers in retail outlets.

The big, long established take-home brands still rule the roost in overall sales terms, but the suppliers behind them are broadening their portfolios to keep pace with consumers’ taste, flavour and quality expectations. In much the same way that the major food companies are going with the ‘better for you’ trend rocking the grocery world, the leading brewers are embracing more niche products in their portfolios.

Scott Bayliss, Wholesale Director at Molson Coors takes up the story:

“Consumers currently have a real appetite for experimenting with new flavours and styles of beer, lager and cider, which has sparked a renewed interest in the category – this is great news for wholesalers. The rising popularity of speciality beers in particular is generating excitement for drinkers. In the last two years alone, the value of speciality beer sales has nearly doubled.”

Scott says this part of the drinks market has seen significant growth across the board due to developing premiumisation – people drinking less overall, but spending more when they do. The largest value growth is being driven by world beers, up 15% and delivering £30 million year-on-year. Molson Coors’ popular speciality beers are increasingly sought after.

These include beers from Sharp’s brewery in Rock, Cornwall, Franciscan Well Brewery in Cork, Ireland and Blue Moon from the United States. To help maximise sales, says Scott Bayliss, it’s essential that wholesalers reflect changing consumer tastes, with products like these and Molson Coors’ new Pravha range playing a crucial role. However, while premiumisation is driving growth, Scott points out that mainstream lagers remain the category heavyweights and are holding firm in this position, including Molson Coors’ Carling, the UK’s number one selling beer for 28 years. More than seven out of 10 lagers served are mainstream lagers.

Carlsberg has also been busy, unveiling a new, better Carlsberg Danish Pilsner and accompanying ‘betterments’ aimed to improve the consumer drinking experience and minimise its environmental impact, as part of a drive to revitalise its flagship beer in the UK.

Liam Newton, Vice President Marketing at Carlsberg UK, explains: “In recent years we have reinvigorated Carlsberg Export and now we’re committed to enhancing the Carlsberg Danish Pilsner drinking experience, encouraging the trade and beer drinkers to re-appraise our brand.”

New Carlsberg Danish Pilsner will be supported by a multi-million pound investment and new visual identity. The launch will include the brand’s most ambitious, integrated consumer marketing campaign to date, incorporating TV, digital and out-ofhome, which will be revealed in April and run throughout 2019.

Carlsberg Danish Pilsner remains at 3.8% ABV and retains the light, refreshing qualities of its predecessor but has been ‘rebrewed from head to hop’ to deliver a smoother, fuller mouth-feel and a perfect balance of bitterness and sweetness. Distinctive citrus and floral hop aromas deliver greater depth of flavour and a hoppy moreish aftertaste which they promise will stay with you until the final sip.

Carlsberg Danish Pilsner’s packaging also features some sustainable innovations. Snap Pack, which reduces plastic usage through innovative glue technology, is a big step towards Carlsberg’s goal of reducing the plastic for its Pilsner cans by 50%. The new environmentally-friendly ‘Greener Green’ ink in bottle labels and outer packaging also improve packaging recyclability.

Initial research indicates that Carlsberg’s new Danish Pilsner has driven a significant shift in perceptions, with 68% of UK lager drinkers suggesting they prefer the taste of Carlsberg Pilsner to the current UK No1 mainstream lager. Preference for Pilsner was most significant among younger, more affluent consumers.

Untouched since it was first introduced 22 years ago, the HEINEKEN beer brand Desperados sees a global, brand redesign roll out in the UK this March. Izabela Glodek, Brand Director of Desperados says “The new identity embodies the brand’s festivity, boldness and spontaneity, with its iconic agave symbol and bright brand colours dialled up to deliver increased visibility and stand out on shelves.”

The bottle design changes will also result in an overall reduction of over 18,000 tons of CO2, equivalent to the average annual CO2 emissions of 3,600 people. The reduction is part of HEINEKEN’s ‘Drop the C’ programme, which targets an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030.

The brand continues to go from strength to strength in the UK, with value growth of 31% MAT. This latest design evolution seeks to continue the brand growth, as well as enhancing visibility and range navigation, resulting in a significant increase in purchase intent.

“The new design reflects the festive personality, energy and distinctiveness, that embodies Desperados’ philosophy of We Are The Party,” Izabela Glodek explains. “As part of our wider sustainability plans, becoming more environmentally-friendly is something we strive for as a brand that always looks to rewrite the rules.”

The redesign is the first in a robust, multi-channel strategy for Desperados this year, with HEINEKEN UK set to invest £5m into the brand, enhancing visibility across the media by 50% compared with 2018. Desperados will also be looking to drive value into the Sunshine Lager segment this summer via a selection of occasion-led activations, drawing on the brand’s DNA of “We Are The Party.”

In another major drink innovation this spring from HEINEKEN UK, Old Mout is capitalising on the growth of the premium Flavoured Cider category by expanding its innovative range of fruit flavoured ciders with the addition of Old Mout Pineapple & Raspberry.

Premium Flavoured Ciders are up 2.7% MAT, but Old Mout is outperforming the category with +25%growth. Exotic premium flavours are increasing in popularity, driven largely by a younger generation looking for sessionable fruit ciders in original, unique flavours. Scoring extremely high in taste tests, Old Mout Pineapple & Raspberry contains the same 4.0% ABV as the other Old Mout variants, resulting in a refreshing cider bursting with tantalisingly, tropical fruit flavour. Like the other Old Mout ciders, new Pineapple & Raspberry has a natural taste and no artificial colours, flavours or sweeteners.

With pineapple going head to head with avocado as the UK’s fastest growing tropical fruit and hopes for another hot British summer on the horizon, Old Mout’s fusion of sweet pineapple and juicy raspberry is set to be the ‘next big thing.’

What’s more, as a brand that is conscious of its impact on the planet and committed to sustainability, all Old Mout packaging is 100% recyclable. Following the huge success of its 2018 campaign to help save the kiwi bird, 2019 is set to be an even bigger year for Old Mout, on its mission to raise awareness of protecting the environment.

“Old Mout’s new Pineapple & Raspberry flavour reflects current market trends and we have the consumer taste tests to back it up – in fact, it received the second highest score in the history of HEINEKEN UK” says HEINEKEN Cider Director, Emma Sherwood-Smith. “As such, we believe we have an exceptional, exotic flavour that will have mass appeal, delivering on 2019 foodie trends, great taste and marrying nicely with our sustainability agenda too. A recipe set for success, Old Mout’s latest NPI is guaranteed to help retailers realise the full potential of their premium cider offering and boost their profits.”

Old Mout Pineapple & Raspberry will be available in a single 500ml bottle and 10 x 330ml can pack from March 2019.

Diageo GB has one of the UK’s strongest beer and cider portfolios, including the Guinness range and Diageo’s spirit brand extensions, Smirnoff Cider and Pimm’s Cider.

According to the company the transformation in the cider market in the last ten years has been from more traditional apple variants in pint bottles to an upsurge in flavoured 500ml bottle ciders. The next stage of this evolution is flavoured spirit ciders, such as Smirnoff Cider and Pimm’s Cider. The 500ml bottle format still remains the largest seller in flavoured cider, but within this format there is a constant rotation of flavours and styles.

Diageo‘s range covers key flavour bases, from orchard fruits to tropical or citrus flavours, appealing to a spread of consumer flavour preferences. They also have a new 10 x 330ml can format for their original two Smirnoff Cider flavours, enabling consumers to enjoy Smirnoff Cider on a variety of occasions.

In March 2018, Guinness launched two new beers, Open Gate Citra IPA (5% ABV) and Open Gate Pilsner (4.5% ABV). Inspired by the speciality beer trend, the beers, created at the Open Gate Brewery at St. James’ Gate, Dublin, are available in bottle and can formats. Diageo say the two new offerings aim to address the barriers to craft beer and become a ‘gateway range’, giving the estimated 7.5m curious consumers in the UK the confidence to venture into alternative flavoursome beer.

Largely on the back of the speciality drinks boom, says Nigel McNally, Managing Director of Brookfield Drinks, UK consumers are more interested in what choices they are making and actively making informed decisions, becoming more engaged with the products available: “Many drinkers are now drinking less but drinking better, opting for premium, authentic products that offer unique points of differentiation.”

Off trade beer sales have been steadily increasing since 2014, Nigel continues. “Value sales have increased ahead of volume, largely because the premiumisation trend means more UK shoppers are prepared to spend more on the products they are buying. Wholesalers need to ensure they are stocking a range of products across the beer, cider and lager category, in a range of different pack sizes.”

Looking at Brookfield Drinks’ portfolio, its Kestrel brand offers a range of award-winning lagers, born in Scotland and crafted using the Holy Brewing Method. Kestrel Super Premium lager is the UK’s best-selling 9% abv can, available solely to independent and convenience retailers via wholesale channels. A large proportion of beer NPD throughout the world is now over 6% abv, says Nigel:

“Consumers are looking for more challenging taste experiences and unique flavours, many of which are associated with stronger beverages, rather than session lagers. Further growth is anticipated in world and speciality lagers, so it is important for wholesalers and retailers alike to innovate within the category, to maximise the sales opportunity.”

Also part of Brookfield’s portfolio, Super Bock, the best-selling Portuguese beer, has introduced a 660ml single NRB format to capitalise on this popular size in the premium world beer category. Over 34% of off-trade world beer sales are single bottle formats.

The 660ml share size bottle is ideal for independent and convenience retailers, as many shoppers are instore for top-up shops and items for consumption within the next few hours.

Super Bock is an authentic, premium, world lager, imported direct from Portugal. Also available in a 4X330ml NRB pack, Super Bock has a range of POS materials available to support wholesalers and retailers. Enjoyed in over 50 countries, Super Bock has earned 33 consecutive gold medals from Monde Selection – International Quality Institute.

In other brand news Brookfield’s Diamond White triple-filtered, medium sweet cider premium is introducing a packaging update in the spring. The UK’s iconic first premium packaged cider is a must-stock line for UK wholesalers, as it offers the retailer the highest POR in the category. Diamond White premium cider is available at 7.5% ABV in cases of 6x4x500ml cans. The introduction will be supported with a trade marketing campaign and various instore POS materials will be available.

Completing the Brookfield range, White Star Premium cider is a key value line for wholesalers, giving retailers a branded value offer, providing a good drinking experience at a value price point.

Health trends are having their effect in beers, lagers and ciders, as they are everywhere else in food and drinks. “It’s important for wholesalers to make the most of calendar moments like Dry January,” says Sharon Palmer, Head of Trade Marketing, AB InBev UK & Ireland, “but bear in mind this trend for moderation doesn’t just stop once January is over. UK adults are looking to reduce alcohol and calorie consumption more than ever before and as a result, choosing low and no alcohol drinks – we are now a moderation nation.”

Sharon urges wholesalers to cater to these new tastes, offering a broad range of beverages addressing different needs, such as low/no alcohol, gluten free and low-calorie offerings: “Ensuring wholesalers have variety will heighten their chances of increasing and maximising sales to outlets.”

A runaway success in the US, Michelob ULTRA is AB InBev’s latest low-alcohol beer to land here. Brewed to 3.5% ABV and with 79 calories per 355ml can, it responds directly to the trend for Brits leading an active lifestyle and wanting a light beer.

“Last year,” says Sharon, “we saw a lot of conversation around the rise of veganism, flexitarianism and ‘free-from’ alternatives, as well as increased desire from consumers to know exactly what ingredients are in their food and drink. This shows no sign of slowing as we head further into 2019. Our world brands Stella Artois, Budweiser, Bud Light, Corona, Beck’s and Michelob ULTRA can all be enjoyed as part of a vegan lifestyle.”

Last year, AB InBev also introduced a new gluten-free variant of Stella Artois. Certified by Coeliac UK, Stella Artois Gluten Free maintains all the high quality and exacting standards of the original Stella Artois recipe, just with the gluten removed.

In the cider market, Chris Milton, Off Trade Sales Director at Thatchers Cider says despite the hype around fruit ciders, apple cider continues to take the majority of this long-established category, with a 66.7% share of total cider and Perry. “Premiumisation plays an important part,” Chris continues, “with value growing ahead of volume, which is a visible trend across cider and wider alcoholic drinks.”

Cider in cans continues to drive market performance, says Chris, up 14.8% in value, but at a 52:48 split it’s important for wholesalers to have a well-considered range of premium cider in both cans and bottles from a trusted supplier. Thatchers Gold is the UK’s no 2 canned apple cider in value terms, enjoying continued growth in shopper numbers.

Thatchers has been pioneering innovation in apple cider, where they maintain there is still considerable room for growth. Thatchers Haze Cider, which is naturally cloudy through the juice of the Jonagold apple, is now the no 1 cloudy cider in the off trade and appeals to younger consumers who are keen on fruit ciders.

Thatchers has also just launched its new Thatchers Rosé cider, packaged in 4x440ml can packs, and appealing to drinkers with a sweeter palate, using a blend of naturally sweet, rosy-red dessert apples. Completing the portfolio, Thatchers Old Rascal, Katy and Vintage are also significant in the category and provide the opportunity to stock an interesting and varied range, appealing to all types of shopper.

On the promotion front, Thatchers’ new TV commercial Race Car aired for the first time on Saturday 2nd February. It is expected to be seen over 30 million times in live rugby during the first two months of the campaign, and in total seen by three quarters of the adult population. The schedule includes the Six Nations Rugby, The Grand National, Monaco Grand Prix, Cricket World Cup, Game of Thrones, Great British Bake Off, and the Women’s Football World Cup and a run in cinemas during July and August, including before the new Quentin Tarantino film Once Upon A Time in Hollywood. Thatchers’ ‘What cider’s supposed to taste like’ campaign is also going out on the road to events and festivals this summer with their special 4×4 truck, Vat 12.

The UK isn’t the only country making cider. Vanessa Zanchi is Brand Manager at Distell, makers of Savanna, the world’s fifth largest single brand cider. Originally created in South Africa, Savanna has been growing in popularity across the UK since it was first made available here in 2002. Originally known and loved by ‘Saffies’ who saw it as a link to home, the UK is now Savanna’s third largest market.

Vanessa Zanchi says Savanna benefits from UK consumers’ attitude shift towards premiumisation, with people looking to buy quality over quantity: “It also taps the growing trend of consumers looking to try something different and experiment with flavour profiles and serves.”

Savanna Dry, the brand’s flagship product, has been carefully curated to offer consumers the ultimate refreshment through its crisp, dry taste, providing an alternative to traditionally sweet ciders. Available to purchase in 330ml and 500ml bottles, it is best served with a wedge of lemon in the neck. Building on last year’s successful out of home advertising campaign, which showcased Savanna’s South African roots and unapologetic nature, the brand plans a fully integrated campaign for 2019.

Beer sales in retail are now overtaking beer sales in pubs, says Christian Sarginson, Brand Controller at Global Brands, due to at home drinking, a trend that shows no sign of slowing, with off-trade beer volumes growing steadily since 2014. In particular, there has been an increasing demand for world beers. Now worth £794.9m in the off-trade, world beer is the fastest growing lager category, rising +13% annually. So make room for Mexican beer, mi amigo! Global Brands’ Amigos Tequila Beer is a world beer with a twist. Inspired by the vibrancy of Mexico and enhanced by the added burst of refreshing South American limes, this highly accessible golden ‘sunshine’ beer has a wide appeal with both male and female drinkers here in wintry Britain.

Finally, offering consumers an alternative choice to beers, lagers and ciders but hitting the same spot, VK, the fastest growing traditional RTD in the UK off-trade and also part of the Global Brands portfolio, is taking its bestselling mixed pack to the next level by revamping the design.

The disruptive, colourful new look adds to shelf stand out and modernise the existing pack. The pack will also now include the newest flavour, VK Watermelon, launched after a crowd sourcing campaign to find a new variant. VK Watermelon received 33,000 consumer votes and the campaign was viewed by over six million.

The VK mixed pack is outperforming competitors across the board, up 18% in value and 19% in volume annually. The mixed pack also has the best ROS of all RTD ten packs, adding almost £2million to the category in the last year. 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the brand, with an exciting summer of activity ahead and a huge multi-channel campaign kicking off in May.

Charlie Leaver, brand manager at Global Brands, says: “As the number one RTD for students, having a look that appeals to the 18-24 audience is key and we know that the loud visuals of the new mixed pack will resonate with our demographic. The vibrant pack also makes for an eye-catching spot when on shelf, tying in with our fun coloured liquids and fruity flavours.”

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