It might not have been marked on your calendar, but last week in Chicago, thousands of cidermakers descended on a hotel there for the United States Association of Cider Makers’ (USACM) annual convention. It’s a valuable chance to taste cider, learn about trends and better understand the state of the industry.

It’s an industry that, given its (relative to beer) small size, is still seeking to define itself. Makers of hard cider fall into many camps: Some are orchardists; some make ciders very similar to wine; some produce cider and market it like beer; some are owned by larger beer-making operations.

Because of their varied backgrounds and aims, theses cider makers sometimes want different outcomes for the future of their industry. But one thing they can agree on? We should all drink more hard cider.

Cider data is even more difficult to come by than data on the beer industry, a sticking point that the USACM plans to address this year by investing in more data and market research. In the meantime, the numbers supplied at CiderCon are incredibly valuable in terms of understanding the American cider market and where it’s heading. Here are some compelling takeaways from the week:

  • Based on a web poll conducted by Boston Beer Company’s Angry Orchard cider brand, 37 percent of adults ages 25-49 are unable to name a cider brand. Of those who named a brand, 9.3 percent named Angry Orchard; 6.9 percent named Mike’s Hard Lemonade, which is a flavored malt beverage and not a cider; 6.1% named Redd’s Apple Ale, which is also not a cider. [per Angry Orchard]
    What does it mean? There’s a huge opportunity for cider to connect with drinkers who just don’t have that beverage on their radars. There’s also a need to educate consumers on what cider is (and what it’s not).
  • Dollar sales of craft cider were up 39 percent from 2015 to 2016 at off-premise retailers, meaning grocery/convenience stores (not bars and restaurants). This excludes brands such as Woodchuck, Angry Orchard, Crispin and others owned by larger corporations. However, total cider category off-premise dollar sales (including those aforementioned brands) was down 10.2 percent during the same period. [per Nielsen]
    What does it mean? Local, regional and smaller cider brands are, by and large, doing pretty well; Strongbow, Stella Cidre, Gumption, Angry Orchard Stone Dry and Orchard Edge are also growing. But slow downs among other larger brands are dragging overall cider growth down.
  • How does cider compare to beer and flavored malt beverages (FMBs) when it comes to on-premise (bar and restaurant) sales? Cider’s share at bars and restaurants is 1.3 percent the size of beer’s share and is about 20 percent the size of FMBs’ share. There are a few states where cider sales are 3 percent or more the size of beer sales: Oregon, Washington, Virginia, Vermont and Maine. [per CGA Strategy]
    What does it mean? Cider’s market share in bars and restaurants is small compared to beer and other alcoholic beverages. The upshot is that means there’s potentially room to grow.
  • Flavored ciders are growing, up 4 percent from last year off-premise; they represent 16 percent of overall cider sales. Popular flavors include pineapple, cherry, blackberry, honeydew and cranberry. [per Nielsen]
    What does it mean? Like beer, cider is seeing an increase in fruit and other flavoring additions as curious drinkers want new products and flavors to try.
  • Compared to regular beer drinkers, the regular cider consumer is younger, earns a higher income and is more likely to be Hispanic. Cider drinkers are also more closely gender-balanced than beer drinkers, who skew male. [per CGA Strategy]
    What does it mean? Cider needs to find its target drinker; it’s not going to be the same as beer’s. Millennials and young Hispanic drinkers could represent important segments of the population.


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