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Good Beer Hunting

Mar 28, 2021

As a total percentage of the beverage alcohol industry, cider hasn’t really changed much in recent years. It amounts to about 1% and has been successfully static. I know a lack of growth doesn’t really sound like a success, and 1% doesn’t sound like a lot, but trust me on this one.

Or, rather, trust Michelle McGrath. She’s the executive director of the American Cider Association and while it’s certainly her job to speak highly of the category and the success of her members, she’s bringing the data to back it up in this conversation about a category that often gets overlooked in a country more interested in narratives of hard seltzers, ready-to-drink, canned cocktails, spirits, or Hazy IPAs. But the maturation of cider as a category and industry is fascinating, especially as a drink that’s holding its own as so many other options have entered the market. Again, that 1% doesn’t sound thrilling, but wait until we put it in context of how hard things are for beer right now.

Aside from the story of cider as a pure agricultural product, there’s also another area worth our attention, and that’s the outsized role that small cider producers are playing. The largest, national brands are lagging, and these small and independent businesses have picked up the slack—which might sound familiar to the stories of the beer world we hear so often. 1% is a small number, but it feels a bit bigger when you learn about how it’s maintained.

When Michelle and I recently spoke, she just finished hosting the industry’s annual conference, CiderCon, so a lot of these things were fresh on our minds, and her’s was full of stories to give context to a category that may be just 1%, but according to Nielsen, has grown 10 times its size over the last decade.