Big beer and big spirits suffered a bloody nose at the hands of the craft movement since its emergence in the early-2000's. Over a decade on, it seems strange to note that the cider category has marched on unscathed and relatively 'un-crafted'. There are signs however to suggest that could soon change.
A growing market
Whilst small fry compared to beer, cider is forecast to steal a fair share of beer drinkers over the next five years. The global market, including perry, is the fastest growing market in the drinks industry, projected to grow at a CAGR of 6.5% from 2017 to 2024, reaching $13.8 billion by 2024.
An increased awareness of the health risks associated with alcohol consumption, especially among young people, is fuelling demand for low or non-alcoholic products. At between 4-5%, cider typically has a lower ABV than other beverages including wine, and therefore seen as a healthier alternative.
The health-conscious Generation Z, i.e. those born in the late 1990's onwards, want to know what goes into making the food and drink they consume. This increased awareness has led to more people seeking gluten-free products, giving gluten-free cider an advantage over beer with this younger demographic.
It's perhaps no surprise that the world's biggest beer brands have been quick to respond to these trends, in contrast to the early 2000s and the first signs of craft beer. Today, craft beer accounts for 21% of market share by value with sales of $22 billion in the US. In the UK, craft has a 9% share of total beer sold.
With global beer sales in slow decline, one of the strategies underway from big beer appears to be to acquire smaller non-beer brands from growing drinks categories such as cider, and use their distribution networks to export globally. It's a strategy partly intended to capitalise on the fast-growing cider market.
Suffolk's 300 year old Aspall cider brand has been swallowed up by Molson Coors, the world's seventh largest brewing company, while Old Mout Cider, originating in New Zealand, was launched in the UK by owners Heineken, the world's second largest brewer.
Limited cider product ranges are often then extended to new flavours and varieties. California's Crispin Cider brand, owned by MillerCoors, launched a rose cider this year.
A challenger brand
Antti Laukkanen, co-founder of French start-up Galipette (meaning somersault in French) also hopes to capitalise on the new thirst for cider. As an independent company however, it has a very different approach to that of big beer, instead focusing on superior product quality and a careful seeding strategy for growth.
Galipette is made from 100% pure juice using apples cultivated specifically for cider. Market leading cider brands tend to use concentrate, then add water, sugar or sweeteners and colouring agents. "The result is a pretty chemical taste but people still drink it because of the lack of anything better", says Laukkanen.
In terms of the branding, Laukkanen believes the mandatory apple reference in cider communications provides a marketing opportunity. "There's a long list of cider brands who use the packaging to educate consumers as to what is inside... the apple. So they show apples, orchards, fields, the list goes on, says Laukkanen. "There’s very little differentiation within that brand world."
Galipette made a very deliberate decision not to reference the apple at all. It's a move that creates space for a pared back, modern, lifestyle-orientated brand to surface. The communications hierarchy focuses first on the packaging, earning the consumer's attention, and only afterwards, on communicating what is inside.
The bottle too breaks with convention. Using brown rather than clear glass, it's a stubbier, rounder shape than the long-necked beer bottle, and at 0.33l, is far smaller than the 0.75l size commonly used for cider in France. "We felt the usual big bottle limits the opportunity for the global market", says Laukkanen.
In terms of the growth strategy, Galipette is implementing a seeding strategy in each of its nine European markets, carefully choosing distributors and outlets who want to build a long-term relationship with the brand, and the places where urban quality-seekers are most likely to frequent and spend time.
Laukkanen is a believer in Seth Godin's 'Purple Cow' theory that if a brand has a remarkable product, then the product will market itself.
"We bring a totally new standard to the cider category and are democratising access to the best cider in the world, says Laukkanen. "I definitely see Galipette as a challenger. There's clear space for a contemporary, unisex brand, with an authentic provenance, that's in tune with the rhythm of now."
Time will tell if this approach is enough to cut through an increasingly bustling global cider market.
Or whether in cider, a category in which creating such remarkable product differentiation is hard to achieve, a bolder, more dramatic brand positioning, like that of BrewDog or Sailor Jerry, is required. Someone to puncture complacency, and make the most of the sizeable opportunity. A bad apple perhaps?
A strategic brand consultancy with a single focus: challenger thinking and behaviour. eatbigfish exist to study challenger behaviour and work with businesses who want to become challengers themselves.