Artisan Cider Sales Surge in 2016

Sales of cider in the United States in 2016 was a tale of two markets: Big Brands and Artisan brands.

According to Nielsen, overall off premise ciders sales (sold in retail outlets) dipped in 2016 to the tune of -10.2% from 2015. But looking closer at those numbers tells a remarkable story. When looking just at the big brand ciders (Boston Beer, Pabst/Vermont Hard Cider, MillerCoors, ABI) you see a hefty 16% decline in off-premise sales. However, small craft cider sold locally or regionally saw a 39% increase in sales and now represent 16.7% of all off-premise cider sales in the United States. This 16.7% share of sales in 2016 is up from 8% in 2014.

Craft cider producers, which continue to proliferate across the country, have clearly benefited from consumers’ migration to artisan products. Equally important is the consumers’ embrace of locally produced beverages.

All tolled, off-premise sales of cider in 2016 accounted for $470 million, representing only 1.3% of off-premise beer sales. However, Nielsen also reported that local/region craft ciders sell at a +25% premium over big brand ciders.

Meanwhile, in the on-premise (restaurants and bars) market, cider sales increased faster than beer, wine and spirits in 2016 according to Nielsen CGA. Cider sales increased 1.7% by volume and 3.8% by dollar value. The total sales for cider consumption on premise in 2016 increased to $852 million on 8.8 million cases.

But again, the on-premise market for cider is a two-sided coin. Again, according to Nielsen CGA, if you remove the top three best-selling ciders (big brands) on-premise cider sales increased by 13.6% in 2016. This is again an indication of the strength of the artisan/local cider sector.

Although sales of regional/artisan ciders are more likely to take on the look of wine sales, in general these craft ciders appear to be following the craft beer trajectory. The diversity of ciders in this smaller sector of the market is tremendous. Ciders featuring added fruits, hops, barrel aging and other flavoring techniques provide consumers with an array of choices—a critical factor for the adventurous and early-adopting cider drinkers that are driving the craft end of the business.

From the perspective of The Cider Journal perspective, we don’t expect to witness the kind of buyout activity of small cideries in the way we have seen this happen in the craft beer industry. However, we will not be surprised when we see more and more regional cideries strike out and pursue a more national distribution.

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