Stella Artois backed to reclaim lost lager drinkers with first cider

By Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith,, Thursday, 10 February 2011 09:30AM

The entry of Stella Artois into the cider category is being viewed as an attempt to muscle in on a growing market and win back lager drinkers lost to over-ice cider brands.

Stella Artois: trys to win back lost lager drinkers

Stella Artois: trys to win back lost lager drinkers

Brewed in Belgium, Stella Artois Cidre is the first extension into the category by a major lager brand. The drink, aimed at affluent consumers in their early 20s to 30s, will go on sale in the off-trade from April. Its on-trade debut is planned for later in the year.

Brand owner AB InBev UK is backing the launch with a multimillion-pound TV, online and point-of-sale campaign in supermarkets and pubs.

The ads, created by Mother, will continue the 60s continental theme, which was introduced for the launch of Artois' 4% lager variant in 2008. More recently it was incorporated into the marketing activity behind golden lager Stella Artois Black, which used "immersive theatre" to reach consumers.

John Mills, managing director of independent drinks firm InterContinental Brands and a former managing director of Gaymers Cider, predicted that Stella Artois Cidre would become a "sizeable" brand.

He said: "This is a high-end, quality product that targets people who already drink cider as part of their repertoire, alongside Stella fans that were lost to Bulmers and Magners."

However, Simon Davies, client services director at psychometric business tools provider E-Metrixx and a former marketing director at Molson Coors, said the product could be at a disadvantage due to Artois' lack of cider heritage.

Davies said: "Cider is a strong, mature and established market that has very traditional values. Stella has spotted a gap in the market, but (Bulmers owner) Heineken and Magners won't give up their territory easily."

The UK over-ice cider market grew rapidly following the entry of Magners six years ago, followed by Bulmers a year later, but James Watson, Stella Artois Western European marketing director, denied its move into the category was too late. He instead claimed that it would "completely rejuvenate" and expand the category by bringing new drinkers to cider.

Strongbow is the top-selling cider in the UK, with grocery sales of £234.5m, up 4.2%, in the year to October 2010, according to Nielsen. Magners, the second-biggest brand, had sales of £62.8m, although this was down by 5.7% year on year. Across all alcoholic drinks categories, only the RTD sector grew quicker than cider.

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