Westons Cider has revealed people wanting a quiet night in helped drive a sales to a record level in 2020.

The annual cider report from the Herefordshire cider mill revealed 2020 was the biggest year on record for the off-trade cider category.

The report showed record growth for cider in grocery retail – up 21.2 per cent year-on-year – taking overall value to £1.3bn.

The company, based in Much Marcle near Ledbury, said almost half of UK households (47.7 per cent) buy cider in shops, which attracted almost a million more customers in 2020.

Westons also said shoppers bought cider in greater volumes – averaging an additional 30 litres per household, up 9.4 per cent.

And, while the enforced closure of pubs, bars and restaurants for much of 2020 certainly played a part the category’s off-trade success – as consumers swapped trips to their local for a ‘quiet night in’ and an influx of new shoppers bought in – the report also calls out premiumisation as a catalyst of category growth.

Evesham Journal: Westons cider mill in Much Marcle, near LedburyWestons cider mill in Much Marcle, near Ledbury

Tim Williams, insight and innovation manager at Westons Cider, said: “The past year has been undeniably challenging for retailers and suppliers alike.

"The initial surge in demand in the off-trade meant that production of priority, bestselling SKUs had to be ramped up significantly.

"However, the outlook for the cider category is no doubt a positive one, as it has yet again shown itself to be buoyant and in high demand.

“After a year of almost continuous government restrictions, and the consequent closure of the on-trade, we’ve seen a huge swing towards the off-trade – which now accounts for 63 per cent of cider value and 83 per cent of cider volume (up 28 per cent and 19 per cent respectively).

“Looking at the specifics, the data is particularly positive for crafted cider – which was the fastest-growing segment last year – as consumers turned to more premium, higher-value offerings to mimic the out-of-home drinking experience.

“In fact, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the biggest cider drinking occasion last year was a quiet night in – up from 19 per cent of serves a year ago to 21.6 per cent of serves in 2020 – and, with this came just short of a million new shoppers into the category (+970,180).

“The challenge now is for cider brands to keep engaging with these new consumers to help the off-trade retain some of the share it picked up in 2020, even as pubs, bars and restaurants reopen.

"And as shopper habits continue to evolve in 2021, we’re confident that the clear appetite for cider demonstrated through last year’s significant off-trade growth spells good news for the category overall.”

Westons Cider said the trends driving growth included premiumisation, craft, online sales, cloudy and rosé cider, low and no alcohol cider, and larger packs.

It also said a quiet night in, winding down and enjoying with food were all primary purchasing motivations for cider, signalling clear stocking time cues for retailers, as well as an opportunity to offer cider within cross-category promotions, such as dining in deals

Darryl Hinksman, Weston's head of business development, said: “As the on-trade readies itself for reopening in April, you might expect grocery cider sales to suffer.

"However, our research suggests the future is looking bright for the UK off-trade.

"A summer of sport and the possibility of meeting with wider circles of friends and family will undoubtedly drive both out-of-home and in-home drinking occasions.

“Over the past year, UK grocery retail has played a crucial role in maintaining presence and momentum for the cider category.

"The sheer popularity of crafted ciders, the emergence of diverse offerings within the cloudy and rosé subcategories and the growth of the online and convenience channels have played a key part in this, and we expect these factors to remain important throughout the year ahead.

“Once again, our cider report paints a clear picture of the ever-evolving cider category, which continues to show itself to be dynamic and in-demand among an increasingly diverse audience."