Every five or ten years, beverage analysts declare that cider is finally about to bubble over and become the next big thing in American bars and restaurants. Then the surge recedes, brands disappear and not many ciders have penetrated consumer consciousness.
But this time may be different. A number of cider brands supplied by Big Beer and craft brewers have taken hold and have reported skyrocketing sales figures.
A recent survey of consumer behaviors in the United States among people who consume any type of alcoholic beverage at least once a week reported that, among people who have been drinking more cider, the top reason is new brands (35 percent) and new flavors (31 percent). Women are especially likely to cite new brands (47 percent) and new flavors (39 percent), while among men, the top reasons for drinking more cider is they have grown to like its taste (33%) and they have found more occasions to drink it (25%). Many men also cite new brands (23%) and flavors (23%), and many say drinking more cider because they are getting tired of drinking other types of alcohol (21%).
Artisanal ciders, made in the US and France, have become so popular that retailers report they sell out as soon as they start stocking some brands. Building on the craft beer bar niche, cider makers have found wide acceptance for their wares, and precious shelf space in supermarkets is being grabbed by some of the bigger brands.
Notably, there’s Crispin Cider, a dry hard cider as opposed to the sweeter Irish and British styles better known in the US market. Bought by MillerCoors last year, it’s been growing by leaps and bounds, bolstered undoubtedly by its wide-ranging offerings – about 20 US-made, imported, reserve and limited release ciders as well as draft draught boxed brands. Other companies have found success - Boston Beer’s Angry Orchard cider launched nationally last year and on the back of the parent company’s distribution, surged in sales. This all on top of the numerous large brands – Woodchuck, Strongbow, Bullmer’s, Wyder’s, Magners – and smaller, farmer brands popular in pockets of the country.
However, the cider category suffers from a large perception gap between drinkers and non-drinkers, according to the study’s compiler, Consumer Edge Insight. People who drink cider regularly (at least once a week) have a positive opinion, of course, while those who don't drink cider at all have a very negative opinion with only 5% thinking it tastes good and 22% saying that cider is "not for people their age."
When consumers were asked what would make them drink cider more often, those who currently drink cider regularly (at least once per week), said, “if it was available in more bars and restaurants.” This was also the #1 answer among people who drink cider occasionally; with 17% of them saying increased availability in on-premise channels would make them consume cider more often.
“The rapid growth of the cider category is being fueled by the explosion of new brands, flavors and varieties, especially among women, while many men are discovering that the cider category offers a great alternative to beer, wine and spirits,” said David Decker, President of Consumer Edge Insight. “Expanding distribution of the cider category among both on-premise and off-premise channels will be key to driving consumption growth among both regular users and non-users.”