MillerCoors has acquired Crispin Cider Co in the US, signalling growing interest in the category amid shrinking sales of mainstream beer.

The company said yesterday (6 February) that its craft and import beer business, Tenth & Blake, has acquired Crispin for an undisclosed fee. MillerCoors, a joint-venture between SABMiller and Molson Coors, is the US' second largest brewer.

Cider accounts for just 0.2% of long alcoholic drinks in the US, but it is emerging as a strong undercurrent within the country's beer category. Late last year, C&C Group acquired the Hornsby's brand from E&J Gallo Winery for EUR16.4m (US$22.5m), making it the market number two by volume. Independently-owned Woodchuck Cider is number one with Crispin third.

MillerCoors said that, in 2011, Minneapolis-based Crispin tripled its volume sales, while the overall cider category grew by 26% in volume terms. "With cider's explosion in the US, we were looking at the best way to participate in that growth," said Tenth & Blake's president and CEO, Tom Cardella.

Crispin will be run as an independent division of Tenth & Blake. All Crispin employees will immediately become employees of Tenth & Blake, MillerCoors said. 

Crispin's CEO, Joe Heron, said: "Tenth & Blake provides us the capability to scale up at the same pace as our increasingly accelerating demand in the US and beyond. We'll continue to create our ciders in our Colfax cidery." In 2010, Crispin acquired California-based rival Fox Barrel Cider Co in an all-stock deal. Financial terms were not disclosed.