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 British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7492
JPY
USD
102.27
GBP
USD
0.5960
CAD
USD
1.0950
INR
USD
61.300

Rates may not be current.