At first I thought – no way. Cider (Hard Cider that is) has been around for centuries and never caught on. Most people I know who have come here from the UK, sooner or later miss Cider and wonder why Americans don’t drink it. I don’t know why that is – no acquired taste for it; perceptions that it’s too sweet; dislike of apple juice; confusion about what it is; just because it’s not in consumers’ frame of reference. There are lots of reasons.
If you look at the numbers, related to beer (including craft), Cider is comparable to a fly on an elephant’s ass. Yet, it grew at around 4% (on average) over the last five years compared to beer, which was slightly down over the same period. An Ad Age article back in Nov 2011 reported that sales climbed 25% last year. Here is an excerpt:
Cider is still a tiny fraction of the alcohol category and is not about to threaten beer, wine or spirits for booze dominance. But while mainstream beer brands are declining, cider is growing at a furious pace, drawing premium prices, coveted women drinkers and even more male fans attracted to bold flavors.
Then this week I read that MillerCoors has bought the Crispin Cider Co, a brand that grew over 200% last year. A-B has decided to jump in and is planning to launch Michelob Ultra Light Cider. Although, in the A-B case, I would guess they thought, “What the hell, the Michelob brand isn’t going anywhere, might as well make it a Cider.” Between the two, my money is on Crispin.
So I bought a pack and tasted Crispin Natural Hard Apple Cider. Not bad… it’s crisp, refreshing and at 5% alcohol, pretty much equivalent to a beer. Packaging is premium and this product can appeal to both men and women.
I haven’t done product reviews in this blog but I intend to in the future, so stay tuned.
For now, I’m leaning toward continued sales growth and acceptance by consumers. It will appeal to those looking to discover new drinks and new tastes. That will build awareness and trial, particularly among sophisticated craft beer drinkers. I also believe that Cider can take a chunk of share from Ready-To-Drink (RTD) products, particularly the Smirnoff stuff. (Are they still making that from malt?)
So yeah, Cider could be the next big thing.