Cider is a drink that first appeared in Normandy during the 6th century. Initially invented in the Spanish Basque country, it is now a very French craft, unique in the world and mainly produced in Normandy, Brittany, Pays de la Loire and Picardy. The cider market consists of several product segments, including two major segments: table cider and “corked” cider. Table cider is the best-selling and most well-known, with a total alcohol content of at least 5% it is sweeter and fruitier. While, "corked" cider has a total alcohol content of at least 5.5%, less sweet and more fermented, it is of higher quality and more flavorsome. The cider market also includes semi-dry cider, traditional cider and pear cider.
The French cider market includes more than 10,000 apple and pear cider producers and 500 cider makers who are members of a cooperative, artisans (about 40) or farmers. Just 10 of these cider producers make up 85% of the production.
The average yearly production of apples amounts to 260,000 tons, but this varies from year to year, such as in 2016 when production was 300,000 tons higher than expected. Each year, 100 million liters of cider are produced and only 10% of production is exported. The remaining 90 million liters are sold in large and medium distribution and restaurants. The market is growing: +6.9% in 2012, +0.4% in 2016. The number of products available on the market is also increasing, particularly amongst retailer brands. Private label cider sales (52% of bottles) are almost at the same level as retailer-brand sales (48%).
With less than 2 liters per year per capita, cider consumption in France ranks far behind wine, beer, soft drinks and water. The cider market remains highly seasonal. With the exception of the first three months (where Epiphany, Candlemas and Mardi Gras are held) and the summer season, sales in supermarkets are struggling to develop. In order to boost sales, companies are diversifying and launching new product ranges such as rosé cider or niche market development such as organic cider. More recently, since 2016, the French cider brands have been working on the development of an Irish and English cider range to overcome the seasonality of cider sales and consumption, which is sometimes too closely linked to that of pancakes and cakes.
The largest producer of French cider is CSR (Loïc Raison cider) with 25.3% market share, followed by Cidreries du Calvados la Fermière with 15.1% and finally, retailer labels which share 42.2% of production.
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