Between Q3 2017 and Q3 2019, off premise cider sales grew 6% in the US, according the ACA. However, Nielsen data found that off-premise sales over the last year declined by 3.9%. ACA attributed this to some of the leading national cider brands, as regional brand off-premise sales grew 15%.
Cider faced challenges in 2019 from the mega-popular hard seltzer trend, driven by drinkers looking for ‘healthy’ alcohol that clocks in with low calorie and sugar counts. But ACA says that consumer desire for booze that is refreshing, healthful and light all apply to cider.
“Somewhere cider lost that as part of our messaging, so this is an opportunity to remind people that cider is just that, and even better, it’s made from apples,” ACA said.
So though cider is still growing, the upward trajectory of FMBs will likely make it harder to continue to do so. ACA advises that increasing direct-to-consumer sales is the best strategy for both category and company health.
Dry Cider January
ACA called its new name shorter and more direct, after eight years of using the USACM title. It comes with a new logo and branding ahead of this month’s CiderCon 2020. ACA said this goes “hand in hand with new aggressive strategies to grow the cider industry.”
This will include both legislative and regulatory goals for the category. Michelle McGrath, executive director of ACA, said “Lobbying with our old name was challenging. People often found it confusing, and you lost them about halfway through.”
“We’re doing so much more in DC than we were four years ago. We’re speaking up for common sense labeling regulations, lobbying for legislation to lower excise taxes, campaigning for the permitted use of harvest dates on cider labels over 7% ABV, pushing for 355ml as an approved volume of fill, supporting transparency on labels regarding state of origin for apples, and more.”
ACA’s first campaign of the year involves a play on Dry January - 'Dry Cider January' - highlighting dry, 0g sugar ciders. They want to market to those health-oriented consumers, and also remind drinkers that cider isn’t seasonal, but a year-round beverage.
Ciders can be made dry with fresh juice for acid and sugar balance, or be left completely dry. It’s become more common for cidermakers to include a dryness scale on their packaging to make shopping easier.
“The brain has a hard time distinguishing fruity from sweet. Many ciders with absolutely no sugar in them can still be fruit-forward. You'll find there are a multitude of dry ciders available when you start seeking them," McGrath said.
ACA will have more campaigns throughout 2020 to promote the diversity and the relevance of cider’s many styles and varieties.