Thursday, 14 March 2019

More cider watering

On February 1st, there was another small turn of the anti-drink ratchet when a new higher band of cider duty was introduced for products between 6.9% and 7.5% ABV. The detailed duty rates can be seen on the HMRC website. This passed with surprisingly little comment. As in other cases I’ve mentioned recently, the ostensible objective was to tackle products supposedly favoured by problem drinkers, specifically white cider, but as always it is impossible to come up with a watertight legal definition so everything ends up being hit.

I don’t routinely visit any retailers who stock Frosty Jack’s or other brands of white cider, so I can’t say whether it has had its strength reduced. However, looking at other products on the shelves, the strength of a 750ml bottle of Merrydown Original has been cut from 7.5% to 6.8%, while Aspall Premier Cru has fallen from 7.0% to 6.8%, which is pretty trivial and a bit of a no-brainer really. The Merrydown does have some “bangs per buck” appeal, but the Aspall is undoubtedly positioned as a premium product. Incidentally, the Merrydown bottle has a screw cap, so even though it still contains 5.1 units of alcohol it won’t fall foul of the Portman Group.

Other premium bottled ciders are unchanged, so Thatchers Vintage remains at 7.4% for now, and Weston’s Old Rosie at 7.3%, while Henry Weston’s Vintage, which even before was in the highest band, is still proudly at 8.2%. But, as with beer, the financial attraction of making products at these higher strengths is going to diminish over time. And what’s the betting that, before too long, the threshold for Higher Strength Beer Duty will see a similar reduction?

A reminder for those reading this on a mobile who can’t see the sidebar, please cast your vote in my new poll on whether you’re really more interested in the pub or beer experience in pubs.

8 comments:

  1. My observation of cider enthusiasts, whilst admittedly formed wholly by observing CAMRA cider people (I’ve not observed none CAMRA craft cider enthusiasts) is that they are closer to the vagrant end of drinking than strong ale drinkers. If you think of it in terms of distance between vagrant and respectable drinking, the gap for regular strength drinkers is wide. For the stronger ale drinker including craft & Belgian ales, it narrows and for cider drinkers it further narrows. Many are visually indistinguishable from vagrants. Be interesting if my anecdotal observations were shared.

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  2. If they keep reducing strength we no longer buy. Destroy your product eh ! Look what happened to pubs when smokers where ostracized. Closed pubs everywhere. Same with taking sugar out of drinks and adding artificial sweetners.

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    1. That's the point of the exercise. They have destroyed pubs, turned smoking into a black market activity and now they will ban booze, pop & burgers. By the time people wake up it will be too late.

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  3. Rate per hectolitre per cent of alcohol in the beer ?
    Rate per hectolitre of product for cider ?
    Rate per litre of pure alcohol for spirits ?

    Tax the booze consistently using the same method for units of alcohol and you no longer have the tax system inflating or depressing the price of different products. Bang per buck will reflect the most efficient alcohol production process.

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    1. There is actually a sound argument for having proportionately higher rates of duty for strong forms of alcohol, particularly spirits, as otherwise they enjoy an advantage due to lower production and distribution costs.

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  4. Old Rosie has now been reduced in strength to 6.8%.

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    1. You're quite right - I must have been looking at old stock of the flagons. Flagons of Healey's Cornish Scrumpy are still 7.4%, as is Orchard Pig Hog Father. And in Home Bargains you can get 4x500ml cans of HCC Gold at 7.5% for a bargain £3.49 :-)

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