Thornbury Village Cider

How an industry leader was able to maintain market dominance and growth

In Ontario’s famous Blue Mountains, surrounded by 7,500 acres of apple orchards, you will find creator of award-winning craft cider, Thornbury Village Cider. Since 2006, they have crafted a leading selection of easy drinking, light, crisp, and refreshing craft apple cider using the finest apples that these orchards have to offer.

As one of Ontario’s original craft cider makers, Thornbury, has ridden the crest of the craft cider wave, becoming the largest craft cider maker in Ontario. While the market continues to enjoy substantial growth, there are many new cider makers emerging. Most of what is seen on the market today is imported, and some even manufactured with artificial ingredients and colour. With these new market players, the challenge continues to be on educating consumers on true local craft cider.

The Challenge

Increased competition, an uninspired brand story, and sluggish ales

Thornbury Village Cider enjoyed being the Ontario craft cider category leader however, a lack of attention to their brand and packaging had allowed their position to be seriously threatened with new entrants with well-developed brands. Market share was slipping, and the competition was aggressively targeting the brand and eating away at their lead. During this time, Ontario locally produced craft cider showed a 54% increase in sales and continued to increase rapidly as craft cider became available in grocery store locations throughout the province. In 2012 there were less than 5 crafter cideries in Ontario, but today that number sits at more than 60, with cideries scattered throughout the province. Thornbury knew they had to address these challenges quickly and approached CACTUS to discuss a new brand and packaging strategy.

The Solution

Creating a brand that connects with audiences and drives sales

This was a delicate operation with many challenges. In order to grow the brand, Thornbury needed to maintain its core audience while attracting and engaging new customers. Consumers needed to learn that Thornbury had evolved, while communicating an authentic brand story that would not alienate loyalists. Packaging needed to visually pop on-shelf and differentiate from the competition. The new branding had to communicate a new look while reassuring there is no change in quality, but also, just as importantly, in product taste.

CACTUS gathered key stakeholders and conducted a “brand summit” to review marketing research, competitive analysis, and identify and understand the most important parts of the Thornbury brand. Great attention was given to identify brand strengths, weaknesses, and align strategy more closely with the expectations of customers.

A storytelling approach communicated Thornbury’s rich history in Ontario cider making and the historic and agricultural story of the region. Visual creative was developed that told this story in a visually fun and authentic way that strengthened the brand loyalty. The visually bold, country-cool graphics .

The Design

Emotionally pulling brand storytelling that connects with consumers

A powerful brand story instills a larger sense of purpose that is beyond the product being offered. Thornury’s brand needed to be aligned with their customer’s values, their lifestyle, self-image and even aspirations. The new brand packaging design communicates classic folk-arts style iconography in combination with high contrast graphics and modern patterns. Colour blocking of the cans or bottle labels easily identifies different product flavours, making it simple for customers to find their favourite ciders. Highly recognizable graphics easily tell the brand story and support high differentiation on the shelf. To add individual personality, icons and colours changed but the overall patterns used maintained brand recognition while authentically telling the Thornbury brand story. The design strategy is intentionally very modular, and thought was given early in the process to it’s applications in apparel, advertising, digital and social media. Collaboration with the Thornbury team was constant and contagious with everyone providing feedback and becoming energized about the new brand and packaging. We had a winner and the excitement to bring this to market was palatable by all.

The Results

Impressive results as consumers engaged with the brand immediately and sales increased substantially

Thornbury Village Cider achieved significant sales growth and the rebrand reversed sales decline and repositioned them as the clear market leader. Sales were so strong that Thornbury closed in on and overtook more inexpensive non-craft cider brands which in the past had been unthinkable. LCBO sales increased month-over-month immediately following the launch of the new cans and bottles followed by new bar and restaurant accounts. Overall, launch feedback has been overwhelming positive, including features on a number of respected craft cider blogs, tourism guides and other industry media outlets took notice. The Thornbury Village Cider brand success shows how a combination of research, design and storytelling can reignite interest and drive sales in the marketplace.
  • 5New product SKU's
  • 150%Increase in total sales since the re-brand
  • #1Craft Cider in Ontario