News / Economy

Taste for Hard Cider Grows in US

The Vermont Hard Cider Company produces Woodchuck Amber, the bestselling cider in America. (VOA/N. Keck)
The Vermont Hard Cider Company produces Woodchuck Amber, the bestselling cider in America. (VOA/N. Keck)
Nina Keck
MIDDLEBURY, Vermont — More Americans are quenching their thirst with hard cider. In 2011, U.S. sales of the alcoholic beverage made of fermented apple juice were up 20 percent over the previous year, according to the U.S.-based Beer Institute.

There were about 5.6 million cases of hard cider sold in the U.S. in 2011. At the same time, mainstream beer sales are down.

While cider still makes up only a tiny fraction of the U.S. alcohol industry, small producers are sprouting up across the country, and the nation’s two largest beer companies have recently entered the cider market.

Hard cider isn’t new. In the 1700s and 1800s, it was the drink of choice for early Americans. But as German immigrants brought their beer-making skills to America, cider fell out of favor.

The drink’s popularity took another blow in the 1920s, during Prohibition, when alcoholic beverages were banned in the United States.  But today, hard cider is making a comeback.

Bob Caloutti, who sells beer and wine in Rutland, Vermont, carries several brands of hard cider.

It is a small niche market, he says, but sales are growing fast among men and women.

“Oh, I definitely think the potential is there," Caloutti says. "Cider has been around forever and then if you throw in the gluten-free aspect, there’re a lot of people who can’t have gluten, which is obviously a common factor in beer, so I think cider is here to stay.”

The bestselling cider in America is Woodchuck Amber, which has been made in Vermont since 1991.  

“When I started with the company way back when, all we heard was, ‘No.’  People didn’t know what hard cider was," says Bret Williams, who heads The Vermont Hard Cider Company, which makes Woodchuck and handles three other brands of cider. "Now I’m worried about whether we can keep up with demand and make enough product.”

At the Vermont headquarters, Williams walks past bottling equipment that sterilizes, fills, caps and labels nearly 600 bottles of cider per minute. Still, because it's hard to keep up with demand, this summer construction began on a new $24 million headquarters which will more than double the company’s output.

“In this economy, to be talking about any growth at all is pretty amazing," says Williams. "The fact that we’re growing by over 30 percent annually and we needed an entirely new building is phenomenal, and I pinch myself every day, and that’s been going on the last five years.”

Woodchuck’s popularity has helped spur an explosion of small craft cider producers across the country. Major beer companies do not want to miss out.

MillerCoors recently purchased the Crispin Cider Company of Minnesota, while Anheuser-Busch recently launched Michelob Ultra Light Cider.

“When the major players get involved in a category, we’re going to bring a lot of interest to the segment,” says Paul Chibe, vice president of marketing for Anheuser-Busch.

How much major companies will help grow the fledgling cider industry is unclear.  The U.S. cider market is small, less than one percent of the beer industry. That is nothing compared to Britain, where cider makes up more than 15 percent of the beer market.

Chibe says it is unlikely the U.S. cider market will ever grow that large.  Still, he sees tremendous potential.

“When you look at the profiles, you think about consumers’ interest in variety," he says. "You see how big the white wine segment is in the U.S. and its broad appeal. There’s no reason why cider can’t be significantly larger in our market.”

That growth is something the Vermont Hard Cider Company is counting on. Despite adding a third shift, the company can hardly keep up with demand.

“The product that you see on the conveyor right here is going to go on that pallet," Williams says. "The fork truck is going to pick it up and it’s going to go right on a truck and it’s out the door.”

Their new expanded bottling facility will help. But Williams already expects to expand again in three-to-four years.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: D from: Detroit
August 23, 2012 12:42 PM
I have Celiac disease, which means I must adhere to a gluten free diet. I loved to drink beer before my diagnosis, but now that is out of the question, though I can have wine and hard liquor. But sometimes, having a beer was a nice, casual and refreshing way to drink moderately - which is why I order hard cider now instead. According to the University of Chicago's Celiac Disease clinic, 1 in 33 Americans have some sort of gluten intolerance, though the majority are unaware of it. I think the growing awareness of the disease is leading many to turn to gluten free options - including the growth of the hard cider industry. I'll be drinking hard cider instead of beer for the rest of my life now.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies


Rates may not be current.