Shanken News: U.S. Cider Segment Showing Torrid Growth

From Shanken News:

Although cider remains a niche segment in the U.S. market, sales are accelerating rapidly, rising 23% to 5.7 million cases last year, according to Impact Databank. Five cider brands—Woodchuck, Strongbow, Magners, Crispin and Ace—earned Impact “Hot Brand” honors in 2012.

This growth is triggering a flurry of new product launches and brand activity from craft beer players like Boston Beer Co., which rolled out its Angry Orchard label nationwide in April, and brewing giants like Anheuser-Busch, which released its first American cider—the low-calorie Michelob Ultra Light Cider—in May.

“We didn’t have much competition in the cider category for almost 20 years,” says Bret Williams, president and CEO of Vermont Hard Cider Co., the U.S. market’s leading cider player. “It’s a very unique time, with more brands coming into the mix. But competition is good for the category. It’s building awareness and bringing in new consumers.”

Vermont Hard Cider’s top brand is the Woodchuck label ($8.99-$9.99 a six-pack), which last year grew 32.8% to surpass the 2-million-case mark. The brand—which includes a range of seasonals and private reserve offerings—is trending at more than 28% growth for the first half of 2012, according to Williams, and is expected to hit 3 million cases by year-end. Vermont Hard Cider is breaking ground next month on an expansion project at its Middlebury, Vermont production facility that will grow capacity from 4 million cases to 10 million cases annually. Vermont Hard Cider is also investing heavily in innovation, recently launching Woodchuck in a 12-ounce can format. In addition, the company has started production on an aged cider matured in Bourbon barrels, set to roll out later this year.

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