Cider rang up $261 million in US retail sales during the year up to May 18 – an increase of 94% from a year earlier – as the drink treads the path beaten by craft and flavoured beers.
Though craft and flavoured beers have been enjoying a rip-roaring rise in sales in the States, the latest ‘in’ drink – cider – is the brew posting the steepest increase in market share, coming from nowhere to earn 1% of the drinks trade in next to no time according to Investors Business Daily.
Brewers are snapping at the chance to tap into shifting consumer tastes with ciders, as discerning drinkers move away from established mass-produced beers in favour of something more interesting, giving them more ‘bang for their buck’ in tough economic times.
“Today’s consumers tend to look for quality and authenticity and a connection to nature,” said Dan Rowell, the CEO and President of Vermont Hard Cider Co., which has been making Woodchuck cider – one of America’s top cider brands – for more than 20 years.
The cider on pour around the States includes a mix of dedicated brands like Angry Orchard and Woodchuck – both of whom boast being top of the tree in terms of cider sales – as well as big-brewer launches like Smith & Forge and Stella Artois Cidre who are aiming to dominate particular sections of the market.
Smith & Forge play the traditional hand, and push the ‘manly’ aspect of the drink, whereas Stella’s offering is focused on the white collar, white wine-drinking consumer.
Stella Artois are confident in their section of the market (Picture: Stella Artois)
Mark Riddick, senior analyst at Williams Capital, says that alcoholic beverages are an affordable luxury on which Americans are willing to spend a little extra.
“Trying a different type of craft beer or cider, you don’t need to go out and get a mortgage for that,” he said, adding that the ‘millennial’ trend of exploring new tastes is playing a big part in the expansion of the niche arena.
Cider has deep roots in the US, going back to the days of the first settlers in New England and beating beer as America’s top tipple until the 1900s, when German settlers to the Midwest grew large amounts of barley for beer.
Prohibition in the 1920s was the nail in the coffin for cider, as the Volstead Act limited the production of cider and prohibitionists burned apple orchards, whose owners deftly moved to planting for sweeter juice-making apples.
Cider production resurged this century, in 2009 consisting of 6.9 million domestic gallons and 2.5 million imported for a total of 9.5 million gallons, according to the Beer Institute.
In 2013, domestic production soared over 360% to 32 million gallons. Imports doubled to 4.8 million gallons for total cider volume of 36.9 million gallons.