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US: Cider having a BIG moment

“When I was a kid, we had Bud, Miller Lite, that’s about it,” said Dan Rowell, president and CEO of Vermont Hard Cider, which makes America’s second-best-selling hard cider, Woodchuck. “Now there are so many more choices.”

Many of those choices have sprung up in the past few years. For a while, Vermont-based Woodchuck dominated the American cider scene, launching in 1991 and going mostly unchallenged for two decades. Then, the floodgates opened.

In a span of just two years, scads of new players emerged, with major beverage companies Boston Beer Co (makers of Sam Adams), Anheuser-Busch InBev (Budweiser), MillerCoors (Miller, Coors, many others) and Heineken staking their claims.

All of those moves have made hard cider the fastest-growing segment of the beer and flavoured malt beverages landscape, by a mile. Per Chicago-based market research firm IRI, cider sales zoomed 75.4 percent to $366-million in that same 12-month period through the end of November 2014. That does leave cider with just over 1 percent market share. Still, those in the industry speak breathlessly about cider’s potential for further growth, particularly because cider’s share was just 0.2 percent in 2011.

“There’s heightened awareness, where more and more cider is on the minds of [drinkers],” said Vivien Azer, a director at Cowen and Co who covers the alcoholic beverages industry. “As you get more Angry Orchard tap handles in bars, that’s only going to continue.”

It helps, too, that drinkers are indulging in more than just beer these days. The second-fastest-growing segment of the beer and flavoured malt beverages (FMBs) market is craft beer, which has seen sales surge 20.6 percent to $2.3-billion for the 12 months ended Nov 30, according to IRI. Meanwhile, FMBs — beers mixed with either spirits or some kind of flavouring like apple or lemonade — have also surged in popularity.

Cider experts are also excited about cider’s appeal to women. Although exact figures aren’t easy to come by, industry watchers estimate that cider drinking runs about 50-50 between men and women, compared to something closer to a 70-30 ratio for beer. Azer credits apple cider’s, well, apples for that swing, in the same way that lighter, fruitier summer shandy beers are also generating increased interest among female drinkers.

In the race to get in on the action, new industry players are searching for new niches, even if it means poking at prevailing trends. Last March, MillerCoors jumped into the fray with its Smith & Forge cider, which it overtly markets toward men, promoting what it calls a strong and sturdy taste and showing images of manly blacksmiths and old-timey mustachioed pitchmen in its ads….. Read the full article

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