Although apple is a staple during fall, we are seeing the flavor emerge year-round in adult beverages. Much of this popularity can be attributed to the growth of the hard cider segment, which is grabbing the attention of both consumers and adult beverage companies. However, beyond cider, major players in the industry are also investing in apple in other ways, such as through the introduction of apple-flavored spirits.
Hard cider may be the smallest category within the beer industry, but it also remains the fastest growing. In Technomic’s 2015 BeerTAB Report, the hard cider segment saw a roughly 60.9% increase in volume, adding 10.6 million 2.25-gallon cases in 2014 to end the year at 28 million cases. The report also finds that Stella Artois Cidre, Angry Orchard and Strongbow Cider all appear among the top 10 fastest-growing beer brands by volume in 2014. As fermented apple drinks gain traction at both retail and on-premise, adult beverage companies are taking notice. In September, AB InBev subsidiary Goose Island acquired a majority stake in Michigan-based Virtue Cider Company; this is just one of many financial backings recently received by a cider company.
As more adult beverage companies add hard ciders to their portfolios, it will be crucial that these brands somehow stand out from the pack. As a result, we have seen existing hard ciders expand their lineups with new varieties that help differentiate their brand from that of competitors. New flavor additions, such as Redd’s Wicked Black Cherry and Strongbow Ginger, point to an increasing consumer preference for more flavorful and premium beer products. Many brands are also pointing out unique production and style attributes in order to carve out these points of differentiation, such as Angry Orchard Stone Dry, which offers a uniquely bitter, dry finish inspired by that of a traditional English dry cider.
Beyond hard cider, we are also seeing apple make its mark in other ways in adult beverages. According to Technomic MenuMonitor data, spirits with apple flavors are up 23.8% on restaurant menus in a year-over-year comparison. With major spirit brands such as Jim Beam and Crown Royal introducing apple varietals, restaurants and bars have ample opportunity to experiment with innovative flavor or spirit pairings with these new fruit-forward spirits.