Despite a year when cideries around the world were forced to close down taprooms and cancel restaurant sales due to the pandemic, cider sales grew 9% in 2020.
“I know some of you are barely hanging on — but you are hanging on,” said Michelle McGrath, executive director of the American Cider Association (ACA). “We did not waver, we held our shares and we kept growing.”
McGrath presented industry statistics at CiderCon 2021, the ACA’s annual global cider conference. Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the conference was virtual this year. Nearly 800 people from 18 countries and 41 states attended the three-day conference.
Smaller, local cider brands sparked consumer interest in 2020. Sales of regional cider brands grew 33%, while national brands declined 6%.
The impact of the pandemic, though, has been severe on certain sectors of the industry. On-premise cider sales (in restaurants, breweries and taprooms) declined nearly 70% from 2019.
“We’re resilient, we’re tough, we’re savvy. You couldn’t have predicted how your business would have stood up to a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic,” said Anna Nadasdy, director of customer success at Fintech, a data company for the alcohol industry.
Nadasdy’s keynote on expected consumer trends in 2021 cited the key drivers influencing consumer behavior — the economy, politics and natural disasters. Here are seven of her takeaways for cideries:
- Consumers Buying all Alcohol Types
Though consumers have long been loyal to one type of alcohol — beer, wine or spirits — the “beer guy or wine gal” label is disappearing. Over one-third of consumers are purchasing from all three major categories.
Hard seltzer is the third largest beer segment (16% of dollar share, behind domestic premium and imported beers), but it’s the fastest growing. This is exciting for cider makers, Nadasdy notes — hard seltzer in 2018 was the size of the cider market today.
- Fruit-Flavored Cider is Growing
Though apple cider still dominates the cider market with 52% of sales, fruit-flavored cider grew three points in the past year to 12% of sales. The top three fruit-flavored products are: Ace Pineapple Craft Cider, Incline Scout Hopped Marionberry Cider and 2 Towns Ciderhouse Pacific Pineapple Cider.
(Other products in the cider category include: mixed flavors, dry cider, seasonal cider/perry, herb/spice cider.)
- Cider is Making Waves in Craft Beer
Cider — tracked as part of the overall craft beer category — is proving a worthy participant.Cider has 11% of the dollar share, second only to the category leader, India Pale Ale (41% of the market).
“That’s really impressive for such a small base,” Nadasdy says. “Even though you guys are a smaller segment, you still have a lot to contribute to the overall beer category. And I think it’s important when you’re having these conversations with retailers that you are able to point out these wins.”
- Hard Kombucha is Gaining Ground
Cideries are competing with hard kombucha. Though hard kombucha is a fermented tea and not a cider, retailers consider hard kombucha and cider comparable drinks. And hard kombucha sales are growing quickly.
“Although small now, keep an eye on (hard) kombucha,” Nadasdy said.
- Prepare for Changed On-Premise Sales
Once wide-spread vaccination is in place and on-premise dining returns, expect fundamental changes such as more online ordering, healthier menu choices and a rise in food tech like tablet menus. The National Restaurant Association listed other significant changes that will impact cideries:
- Streamlined menus. There will be fewer menu items, with 63% of fine dining operators and half of casual and family dining operators saying they will reduce their offerings.
- Alcohol-to-go. Seven in 10 full-service restaurants added alcohol-to-go during the pandemic. Thirty-five percent of customers say they are more likely to choose a restaurant that offers alcoholic beverages to-go.
- Rosé-Flavored Cider is Out
Every brand of rosé-flavored cider is losing sales. The top three brands showing the most significant losses in this category are: Angry Orchard, Bold Rock and Virtue.
- Cans Are King
Cans are leading the dollar share of the market, growing at 1.5 times the rate of bottles. Six-pack (11-13 ounce) cans are now the top share item with 29% of total cider sales. This is followed by six-pack (11-13 ounce) bottles and 4-pack (18-ounce) cans. (These figures do remove shares of Angry Orchard, which sells in bottles. Because Angry Orchard dominates 40% of the cider market, they skew the data.)