Cider is one of the fastest-growing categories in beverage alcohol right now. Just in time for the fall season, I had the chance to speak to Alejandra de Obeso, Strongbow Apple Cider’s Brand Director. Strongbow is an English cider company, with four flavors distributed in the U.S. by Heineken USA.
BD: What differentiates Strongbow from other hard ciders on the market?
AO: Many of our competitors position their brands in what we call the “savor” segment, which focus on relaxation and session occasions, whereas Strongbow is targeting upscale consumers who are experimental, but also aware of product quality and mindful of the choices they make. Those consumers tend to consider variety and brand credentials when making purchasing decisions.
We stand apart from competitors in quality and we’re also proud of our cider-making heritage — we’ve been expertly crafting hard ciders for over 125 years. Strongbow Gold Apple was awarded Best Tasting Common Cider at the tastings.com World Beer Championship and our Honey & Apple took home gold in the Specialty Cider category.
BD: What opportunities are available for cider in the American marketplace?
AO: The category has really exploded in the U.S. in recent years and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. It’s also an attractive segment for retailers because it offers higher margins, making it an ideal profit generator. We believe the cider category is still in its infancy with considerable room for expansion. As the category grows we believe a few brands will emerge from the pack, Strongbow clearly among them.
BD: How important is serving over ice to the brand and its perception in the marketplace?
AO: Pouring a Strongbow over ice amplifies the brand’s refreshment and makes it the perfect drink to start the evening. We truly believe Strongbow over ice is a proven recipe for success, as it brings out the flavors of our bittersweet and culinary apples. The ritual is straightforward and truly delivers Strongbow at its “bestest.”
BD: How do flavors and variety packs play into Strongbow’s growth strategy?
AO: We know our consumers are curious and experimental – always looking for new, unique, exciting taste experiences. What better way to deliver the diversity they crave than through a variety pack, which we just launched this spring! Available year-round, the pack includes Gold Apple and Honey, plus two new delicious flavors – Red Berries and Ginger.
Red Berries is a blend of sweet, juicy mixed berries with crisp lemon notes and apple finish. Ginger has fresh floral aromas, a hint of muscato notes and a crisp, refreshing apple finish.
BD: What innovations do you plan to release in the upcoming year?
AO: As a leader in the category, we’re always pursuing new flavors to bring to our customers. Our innovations are built on the foundations of the category – always from apples and always natural flavors. It’s too early to talk specifics, but we have a range of new flavor offerings in development for 2016 and beyond.