Alcohol Beverages: Fresh Press

Hard cider continues its sales momentum

By  Abbey Lewis, Executive Editor

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The hard-cider category has only added to gains it has made in recent years, hitting more than $44 million in c-store sales last year and jumping nearly 203% in growth over 2012, according to IRI. That beats fellow up-and- comer craft beer by more than 178% in percent growth.

While it still takes up less than 1% of the overall beer category, the rise of cider has everyone paying a bit more attention.

Leading the cider charge in c-stores is Boston Beer Co.’s Angry Orchard brand, which owned $28.2 million in c-store sales in 2013, up 432.8% from the previous year, according to IRI. Woodchuck came in second with $8.4 million in sales and 38.6% growth over 2012 numbers. In third: Michelob Cider with $1.5 million in c-store sales and 22.9% growth in 2013.

Currently, 55% of cider drinkers are women, most of whom are under the age of 30, according to a recent report from Rabobank. This female millennial represents a customer who might be more willing to switch between superpremium and value options as necessary.

Sulu Jaffer, owner of Intown Market and Midtown Market in Atlanta, agrees that traditionally the cider customer tends to be female, but adds, “Lately, we’ve seen a slight increase in men.” Be it reactionary or trendsetting, some brands such as MillerCoors’ Smith & Forge are overtly courting male cider drinkers with more masculine branding.

“Overall … my sales are up in cider,” Jaffer says. “We’re still focused on that category, especially when the summer comes around. I think we’ll see even more growth.”

Other recent cider rollouts include Anheuser-Busch InBev’s Johnny Appleseed, the first wholly new brand from the company in eight years. Heineken expanded its Strongbow lineup with Gold Apple Hard Cider and Honey & Apple Hard Cider, while both Woodchuck and Angry Orchard have introduced more specialty varieties in 750-ml bottles.

Jaffer understands that in order to court the millennial beer and cider customer, he needs to offer a large selection. He has a growler program at his stores for customers to fill up on local beers. He had been offering a cider as part of the program but recently switched it out in favor of a local brew, and actually finds that his local craft selection draws a lot of attention from his core beer customers.

Jaffer works hard to maintain a large selection of both cider and craft beer, and he’ll inevitably have a lot more cider SKUs to choose from as the year goes on. It’s a fact he accepts—even relishes.

“We are a craft destination. And we’re seeing a renaissance of the local movement. In fact, over the last six months, my local sales have gone up significantly,” he says. “There are more [brands] popping up, and there’s even more to come.”

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