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 One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8957
JPY
USD
120.93
GBP
USD
0.6393
CAD
USD
1.2199
INR
USD
63.470

Rates may not be current.