Cider Statistics: How Deep is the Bottom of the Barrel?
How much cider do Americans drink? That’s hard to get a handle on. Until recently, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms lumped cider with wine for statistical purposes. After Congress created a new tax bracket for cider in 1997, the ATF added a column for cider on the production reports that wineries must submit. However, when we contacted ATF cider specialist Marjorie Ruhf, she answered that the agency had yet to install a computer program for tabulating cider statistics. The wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly.
Consumer monitoring services like ACNielsen and Impact database do track the leading brands, but only at major chain stores and supermarkets. Because they ignore specialty outlets and draft accounts, the results may be skewed.
Wendy Kramer, VP for marketing for Bulmer America, Inc., was unable to give a figure for how much Bulmer produced last year. However, she estimated that cider amounts to 0.2 percent of the beer market. Assuming 200 million barrels of beer brewed last year, that would translate into 400,000 barrels of cider.
Joe Whitney, managing director for HardCore Cider Co., offered a guesstimate of 5 million cases, which would amount to a little over 350,000 barrels–not out-of-line with Kramer’s figure.
Whitney pegged industry leader Bulmer at 2 million cases, followed by E.&J. Gallo at 1 million cases, followed by HardCore at 500,000 cases. “It really falls off after that,” he says. Wyder’s, with 255,000 cases sold in 1999, ranks fourth. California Hard Cider Co. is number five, selling 155,000 cases of its Ace Ciders last year.
In addition, there are probably several dozen small wineries that make ciders, as well as several breweries, including Widmer Brothers Brewing Co. of Portland, OR (with its Wildwood Cider) and Spanish Peaks Brewing of Bozeman, MT (which makes its Spanish Peaks Apple and Pear Ciders at the Washington Hills Winery in Sunnyside, WA and the August Schell Brewing Co. in New Ulm, MN).
For purposes of comparison, those 350,000-400,000 barrels of cider are less than the total output of one craft brewer, the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. of Chico, CA. It’s also less than the liquid that Anheuser-Busch pumps out in two days. Kramer is not exaggerating when she says, “There’s plenty of room for growth.”
Greg Kitsock is the editor of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, a long-time resident of Washington, DC, and a frequent contributor to beer-related publications.