Heineken carries two main brands in this area: Strongbow Cider, which the company recognises as the ‘No. 1 Cider brand globally’, and the newer Apple Fox Cider.
“Strongbow is available in over 70 markets worldwide, including many in APAC, [and is found] in a wide variety of flavours from the [sweeter] Gold Apple and Red Berries to the characterful Original Dry,” Heineken APAC Marketing Transformation Director Sarah Maddock told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“Apple Fox is a very accessible brand which really focuses on the apple itself and the great variety that it can bring - [Variants are] pressed from the finest apples to create [smooth] ciders with a crisp apple taste.
“[So with ciders, there is a lot of] variety, and the great thing with such variety is that there is a choice to suit everybody’s tastes. One of the key trends that we have seen [in APAC] is consumers’ increased tendency to look for a variety of different choices and have diversifying needs when it comes to taste.”
In this sense, cider particularly appeals to consumers that are looking for a sweeter alcoholic beverage, particularly in a social setting
“Cider gives [consumers] a really accessible yet authentic option that particularly meets sweeter taste preferences,” said Maddock.
“[It] really offers a unique proposition within the alcohol category with as a fantastic refreshment, a sweeter taste that has a broad appeal across genders and generations and is suitable for many occasions.
“Cider also has a unisex appeal and fits a wide variety of different occasions, [especially] unisex social occasions where people are choosing their drinks together.
“While beer is also democratic and there are beer styles to meet almost everyone’s tastes, some people just prefer sweeter to more bitter drinks and in this case, cider is perfect for them.”
Outside of the APAC region, Apple Fox Cider is known as Orchard Thieves, and Heineken also owns several other cider brands such as Cidrerie Stassen Belgian cider, the British Bulmers Cider and American-styled Blind Pig cider, making it the world’s biggest cider producer.
According to Euromonitor, Strongbow Cider alone carries some 15% of the global cider market share. In particular, growth at a CAGR of 15% is expected until 2021 for the China market, with sales predicted to hit around 160,000 litres, whereas a CAGR of 27% is expected for Indonesia.
Market researchers generally expect the Asia Pacific region to be the greatest driver for cider growth over the next few years. According to Grand View Research, drivers here include health consciousness and a rising fondness for fruity drinks.
“[Growth in the APAC region] is anticipated owing to the shift from beer to cider on account of nutritional benefits owing to the growing health-conscious consumers,” said the researchers.
“The evolving trend of fruit sourced ingredients across various product categories, particularly in beverages, has [also] surged the market for fruit-flavoured alcohol.”
Cider vs beer
Both cider and beer are fermented beverages, and the main difference between the two is of course the raw material used (fruits vs grains), but there are some differences in the production too.
“The main difference remains as working with fruit to produce cider, and not grain, but that in itself requires a different approach [and] process,” said Maddock.
“Cider is obtained from the pressing of fruit, such as apple, to form a liquid. The liquid then undergoes a natural fermentation process which creates [the final] alcoholic drink.”
Beer on the other hand generally requires brewing and the addition of hops for flavour, which cider does not have.
Cider is also generally able to remain gluten-free throughout its production, but this is not possible for beer as the grains used to produce it usually are already gluten-containing grains.
“In the APAC region, there are already some markets where cider has existed for a long time and it remains popular till this date, such as Australia and New Zealand,” Maddock added.
“Cider is great as it is made from a natural ingredient – such as apple - but offers a very wide variety of tastes and natural flavours.”
She stressed that Heineken APAC encourages consumer to drink ciders ‘responsibly’, as these do still contain alcohol levels similar to that of beer despite the sweeter taste – Strongbow and Apple Fox Cider both contain 4.5% ABV, comparable to regular Heineken at 5% ABV.