Another week and another cider is launched onto the market trading under the brand name of a well known but bland tasting lager.  This time it is Carling British Cider from Molson Coors who have a fantastic track record at launching new brands, from Animee to Carling Zest none have took the on trade by storm (a slight period of dampness being closer to the truth).  The cider will be initially launched to the off license trade following a similar approach by Stella Cidre and Carlsberg Somersby, both of which subsequently went to the on trade.

The cider will be 4.5% ABV, the typical strength for most generic mid range ciders.   The mainstream cider market is already a crowded one, Magners, Gaymers, Bulmers, Strongbow and Cidre all maintain healthy shares in that sector.   On top of this the more premium brands such as Aspalls and Weston are gaining a greater share of the overall cider market.  Where does this leave Carling British Cider, where the Carling brand is probably its only differentiating characteristic.  It will be tough to break the status quo, but the £4.5 million promotional budget will help in this, I predict it will end up being a mid table competitor which makes enough profit to stop it from being canned, but nothing more.

However, how many of you like me said “never heard of Carlsberg Somersby”.  This brand flew right under my radar.  Some googling reveals that the drink is technically a cider, but heavily flavoured with apple juice and sugar rather than relying on the fermented apple juice flavours.  The brand has been about since 2008 and has been released in 22 countries.  I’ve honestly never seen this in a pub or off licence.  If this got the multi million pound promotional launch that was reported, then it failed spectacularly.

While talking about the marketing of beer, the next exciting installment of the Guinness “Made of More” campaign kicked off this week with the release of the clock advert.  On the positive side, it has the hallmarks of a Guinness advert which is a big improvement on the previous “cloud” advert.  The advert itself is a bit messy and interest drifts over the minute duration. Based in 1890’s Bohemia, it focuses on a clock which manipulates time to benefit the towns residents, speeding up the routine and slowing down the special.  Better, but still a long way off the classic campaigns however.

Moving on to the actual sale of beer at the tap.  In the last quarter the British Beer and Pub Association reported that overall beer sales were down by 6.2% against the previous year. On site sales did better than off sales, with the former being down 4.8%, the latter 7.5%.  The drop represents 138 million fewer pints less being consumed over those 3 months and when translated into this format, it shows something needs to be done.  The BBPA figures show that beer duty raises approximately £8 billion a year and a 5% increase in duty would only raise £92 million extra per year, only just over 1% of the total.  However this duty increase could easily cost tax payers money if jobs are lost in the industry over time.

When drilling down into the figures it shows that the average pint now costs £3.17, with duty of 55p being levied on it. It is a fact that beer needs a fairer duty regime and the treasury is being pig headed in its refusal to review the current system.  The people want it, the publicans want it, MPs want it, so why not listen to the people who elected you in the first place, you are the peoples government after all.

Looking at the trends over the last 13 years, the last 6 years have been devastating to the beer market.  From 1999 to 2006 sales kept within touching distance of 140 million barrels of beer a year, then they jump off a cliff and haven’t hit the ground yet.  2007 saw a 5 million barrel drop, a reduction which been replicated until the current day every year when averaged out. 30 million barrels less a year are no longer making it out of the pump and into the cash register when compared to 2006, that is a lot of beer by any measure.

There is only so much consumers can do to halt this decline with the current economic climate, only so much beer can be drank by us, until next week, lets enjoy those pints.