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The Cider Market Is at an All-Time High

As consumers seek out new categories, cider finds its place alongside beer and wine

October 4, 2021

For many years, cider has been a misunderstood beverage in the United States. While the apple-based beverage has always been a favorite in the U.K. and in Australia, cider has only begun to gain popularity in the U.S. in the last few years. Consumer growth and production have simultaneously been on the rise, and in California alone, over 100 new cideries have opened up in the last few years. In 2020, despite the pandemic and bars and restaurants being shut down, cider sales still grew 9%, with regional cider brands seeing sales rise as much as 33% over previous years.

Consumer Education Is Key

While many consumers may think of cider like a beer, in fact, cider more closely resembles wine. Like wine, cider is made from raw fruit picked at peak ripeness and juiciness and then fermented. The skin of the apples also plays an important role in the flavor profiles of ciders, and they should have adequate levels of natural acids and tannins. Typically, cider manufacturers use several different types of apples for a balanced flavor, just as a winemaker might blend several grape varieties together to create the most balanced profile. Giving consumers the tools to understand how cider is made will help drive continued growth for the category. 

Cider Can Be Complex 

Another common misconception about cider is that the category is overrun with sweetness. In fact, there are four different types of apple juices used in cider production: aromatic, astringent, acid-tart, and neutral. Usually, sweet and tart apples are blended together to create a balanced cider that hits all of these flavor notes. A typical blend includes 50% neutral base, 20% tart, 20% aromatic, and 10% astringent. Some cider brewers may add tannins, malic acid, and other natural acids to adjust the flavor. Tannins can add a slightly bitter taste and astringency to ciders, whereas alic, citric, and tartaric acids provide a zesty tingle. 

Tapping into Recent Beverage Alcohol Trends

Since the beginning of COVID-19 and the closures of bars across the U.S., Americans have consumed more alcohol at home. According to an article written by NPR and Nielsen’s market data, total alcohol sales outside of bars and restaurants surged roughly 24% during the pandemic. Another trend that saw a boost in 2020 was direct-to-consumer sales, which saw cider customers embrace buying beverages online more than ever before. Many cideries also began adopting cider clubs in 2020, making it easier than ever for consumers to explore ciders from the comfort of their own home.

Cider Provides Health Benefits

Studies indicate that cider may offer a healthier alternative to other alcoholic beverages, and recent consumer trends in favor of healthier products, food and beverages has contributed to the category’s growth. Cider contains compounds called polyphenols, which improve blood pressure, cholesterol, and increase probiotic efficacy. As more and more consumers look to eliminate and cut back on gluten, cider fits the bill, as it is made without the use of wheat or barley and is one hundred percent gluten free. Cider is also nutrient-rich, containing pectin, B vitamins, biotin, folic acid, vitamin C and a healthy dose of antioxidants

What’s in Store for the Future of Cider? 

While consumers looking for a healthier alcohol choice are drawn to cider, for those looking to cut back on alcohol, THC-infused ciders offer an exciting new alternative to alcoholic ciders. We can expect to see more beverages like Malus, a cannabis-infused cider that was developed in partnership with and dealcoholized by BevZero, as consumer interest in health, wellness, and cannabis continues to grow. 

The classic cider industry has also seen the emergence of using experimental apple varieties in cider production. Rosé-style ciders made with red-fleshed apples have been a big hit in the cider community this summer, and we can expect to see more unique ciders in the future. As orchardists continue to explore endangered and heirloom apples and as manufacturers push the limits of fermentation, the cider category will continue to innovate and reach new consumers with exciting new products.