Here Comes Cider

“Alcohol cider sales booming across the U.S.…”

…Read the headline from a recent edition of the Chicago Tribune as reported by Mark Brown’s Buffalo Trace Industry Newsletter.

While the size of the cider market in the US is small relative to beer, the rate of growth has been nothing less than “explosive,” according to CSP Daily News, which monitors convenience store salesIndeed it has. In the past 10 years, cider sales have grown 16%, and in the last five, 35%. Cider accounts for only 1% of the total beer sales but is expected to climb to 5% in a few years.

(See my previous post on cider two years ago.)

Why the growth?

I think there are a number of forces at work accounting for the willingness to try cider and add it to the drinking repertoire. These would include a taste that many perceive to be crisper and more satisfying than beer; product imagery that appeals to a wide and diverse demographic base; a replacement for ready-to-drink (RTD) products that are generally made from malt. But, more recently, there is another phenomenon at play – concerns about gluten. Yes, gluten.

Check out this chart. It’s from the CSP Daily News reporting on a study by RBC Capital Markets that correlates interest in “gluten free” (via Google searches) and the growth of cider.  Not sure I buy that but there’s no question that gluten free has become an important purchase factor. In fact a recent NY Times article reported “… households reporting purchases of gluten-free food products to Nielsen hit 11 percent last year, rising from 5 percent in 2010.”

Cider sales and interest in gluten free as reported by CSP Daily News
Cider sales and interest in gluten free as reported by CSP Daily News

If you can’t fight ’em, join ’em

Two other interesting pieces of information came my way that suggests continued, if not accelerating, growth for cider.

First, the beer folks are coming on board. Angry Orchard Cider by Boston Beer is a major player as are the products from MillerCoors – Crispin, from ABI – Stella Cidre and from Heineken – Strongbow. The big beer players sat out the craft beer phenomenon and have been playing catch up, so I suppose they don’t want to make the same mistake with cider.

The Count of Żubrówka: 1.5 oz of ZU; .75 oz Amaro Montenegro; .5 oz Lemon juice; 4 oz hard apple cider
The Count of Żubrówka: 1.5 oz of ZU; .75 oz Amaro Montenegro; .5 oz Lemon juice; 4 oz hard apple cider

Second, I came across an interesting piece in that had some mouth-watering drinks with the delicious combination of ZU Bison Grass Vodka (Żubrówka) and hard apple cider. If you’re not familiar with Żubrówka, you ought to try it.

Will cider continue its growth? I certainly think so. But, at roughly an estimated 2 million hectoliters vs. beer’s 250 million, it has a long, long way to go.

“Surely the apple is the noblest of fruits.” — Henry David Thoreau, Wild Applesapples-sea-cider1


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  1. Sadly, the renaissance of Cider is also currently causing the degradation of a potentially fine product. As an avid cider consumer for many, many years, I see the current surge of ciders as flaccid, uninspired, and in general too sweet. Why is it that the US cider approach is mirroring how they tried to get the population enjoying wine with white Zin and wine coolers. There are already way too many sugary alternatives that are spoiling the market, and creating a consumer public that is embracing the sugar and not the cider.

    Oh how I miss the good old days of Dry English Cider like Strongbow or Dry Blackthorn on tap. Come on you cider makers. Start treating your cider production like fine wine production. Make them dry, and of distinctive character and leave the sugar for coca cola.

  2. Hi Arthur,

    In Netherlands from time to time we see wine-based or spirit based innovations. but they rarely achieve a fixed position in the repertoire or the listings. Cider is very popular, but seen as low-end, in France. I believe it is generally accepted in the UK. IN Holland Heineken is trying to get attention for Jillz I believe it is called but not a great succes. It is seen as immature. (like the bacardi breezer bubble) the only real succesful ”innovation” is branded pre-mixes in cans like whisky & cola. at your end, it would certainly be interesting to see how this niche wil develop.

    cheers, Rob

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