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)
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

Egyptian Court Jails 23 Pro-Morsi Supporters

Meanwhile, Egyptian officials say gunmen have killed two members of the country's security forces More

Pakistani Journalists Protest Shooting of Colleague

Hamid Mir, a host for private television channel Geo, was wounded after being shot three times Saturday, but is expected to survive 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7217
JPY
USD
102.17
GBP
USD
0.5949
CAD
USD
1.1009
INR
USD
60.326

Rates may not be current.