Domestic cider is performing better than imported cider in the US

Domestic cider is performing better than imported cider in the US

Cider appears to be continuing its breakthrough in the US, with domestic brands outperforming imports.

Latest figures collated by the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) show that volumes of domestic cider in the first four months of 2014 were up 74%, while import volumes fell by 11%. Total category volumes in the January to April period were at an all-time high of 7.5m cases, according to figures from the US Department of Commerce, and the Tax and Trade Bureau, seen by the NBWA. 

It's too early to tell, but I suspect these figures have been buoyed by the launch of major new brands by Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors. In March, MillerCoors released Smith & Forge, followed soon after by A-B InBev with Johnny Appleseed. Both are being backed, as you would expect, by a significant advertising spend. And, no doubt, this has a positive ripple effect for the rest of the category.

As the NBWA notes: “There are undercurrents in the marketplace, with many new domestic cider brands hitting the shelves and replacing traditional imported ciders.”

And, its not only the big boys who are benefiting from the renewed interest in the drink – known as hard cider in the US. In May, Boston Beer Co. reported a strong performance from its Angry Orchard brand.

Not everyone is getting a boost, though. One of the few domestic strugglers appears to be Woodchuck, owned by Ireland's C&C Group through the Vermont Hard Cider Co. Earlier this month, it reported a slip in sales for the brand, blaming “increasing competition”.

Importers like Heineken, with its Strongbow brand, and Carlsberg, with Somersby, could also face an uphill struggle, although Heineken appears to see Strongbow variants as a way to tackle the opposition

And A-B InBev clearly sees some mileage for its French brand, Stella Artois Cidre, in the US, having rolled it out to all 50 states earlier this year.

But, at present the situation looks tough for imported ciders in the US. According to May's figures from the Department of Commerce total market volume share for non-domestic cider has now slipped from a high of 30% in 2005 to 8% in May 2014. 

The US cider market is a tiny pie, accounting for less than 1% of the overall US beer market. But, for imported brands it may only be crumbs, rather than slices, to feed off.