CIDER MAKES A COMEBACK
It’s been awhile since hard cider was trendy. Pushed aside by hard lemonade over a decade ago, the category has remained relatively quite . . . until now. Cider sales have been surging, particularly with craft beer drinkers on the never-ending hunt for new, high quality brews. Although it only makes up a fraction of the alcohol industry, cider is growing at an extremely rapid pace, drawing premium prices, women drinkers and even more men. Category sales were up 25% in the year ending October 3O, to $49.6 million, according to market research company SymphonyIRI. Although MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch InBev do not have cider brands in the US, AB-InBev launched a cider brand in the UK earlier this year called Stella Artois Cidre that would seem to be a logical brand extension for the US market. For now, the biggest American cider player is privately held Vermont Hard Cider Co. in Middlebury. The company controls an estimated 6O% of the cider market with several brands, including category leader Woodchuck, which has a 47% share and whose sales grew 37%, to $23.5 million in the 52 weeks ending in October. The company also has the No.4 brand, Wyder’s, and imports two brands owned by Heineken International: Strongbow (No.3) and Woodpecker (No.15).
Long perceived as a sweet drink that was mainly for a female drinker, ciders are currently being made in a variety of drier styles. As a result, more men are drinking them. Vermont Hard Cider says half its customer base is now male, with the average drinker between the ages of 21 and 3O. The biggest US brewer in the category is Boston Beer Co. which sells a brand called Hardcore, whose sales jumped 21% in the year ending in the same, and a new offering named Angry Orchard. Cider goes back hundreds of years but has never been a huge seller in the mass market. Even though it is growing at a fast pace, it still accounts for only .2% of the combined beer and cider market in the US, compared with 17% in the UK and 12% in Ireland. Much of the category’s success can be attributed to grass-roots marketing, the method which has been so successful for the craft beer movement.