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Angry Orchard Sees Drier Style Ciders Broadening The Category’s Appeal

September 23, 2015

The total cider market in the U.S. is projected to reach 36 million (2.25-gallon) cases on a 39% increase in 2015, according to Impact Databank’s 2015 Cider Report. With the category booming, a number of new brands—from both craft and mainstream producers—have entered the market recently. But Boston Beer Co.’s Angry Orchard continues to lead the segment, with its core Crisp Apple up 22% to 3.4 million cases year-to-date in IRI channels through September 6. That progress comes after Angry Orchard’s overall 81% rise to 14.5 million cases in 2014, according to Impact Databank.

In an effort to continue expanding the cider category’s audience, Angry Orchard is now introducing a new year-round offering inspired by traditional English dry ciders, as U.S. consumers begin to explore drier styles. Angry Orchard Stone Dry (5.5% abv), which is rolling out in six-packs at $8.99-$10.99 nationwide and on draft in select markets, is billed as the brand’s driest release to date, created with European bittersweet varieties like Dabinett, Binet Rouge and Harry Masters Jersey. The newcomer joins Crisp Apple, Green Apple, Apple Ginger, Traditional Dry and Hop’n Mad Apple, as well as a number of seasonal offerings in the Angry Orchard line.

With dramatic volume gains coming from Angry Orchard, Boston Beer plans to open a new cider research and development center in November on 60 acres in New York’s Hudson Valley, which will focus on experimentation and innovation. Ryan Burk, formerly head of Michigan’s Virtue Cider (recently acquired by AB InBev), has been named head cidermaker at the new cidery. Burk tells SND that while sweeter ciders still remain the most popular overall, he’s seeing an emerging trend toward drier styles, which Stone Dry is intended to satisfy.

As the craft beer category grows more crowded, Boston Beer flagship brand Samuel Adams has struggled to keep up, adding pressure on Angry Orchard to maintain momentum. Last year Sam Adams Boston Lager was flat at 10.3 million cases, and Boston Beer founder Jim Koch recently acknowledged some “developing weakness” in the brand. So far, Angry Orchard’s ascent—as well as strong performances by Twisted Tea, Rebel IPA and the Traveler flavored beer range—have offset Sam’s struggles, contributing to a 7% depletion increase company-wide in Boston Beer’s fiscal first half, ended in June.

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