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As more cideries enter the market with canned products, a long-dormant beast which was once influential during the times of Johnny Appleseed (late-18th century) may be reawakened to make its mark on the alcoholic drinks landscape. After the introduction of German beer overtook cider in the 18th century, cider has been reintroduced to American palates and may once again become a major beverage of choice for US drinkers.
Many cideries package their products in champagne-style bottles. Why? The issue stems from the core ingredient – apples. Apples are more expensive than the grains that go into beer. Although the finished product has a different taste, the alcohol content is normally on a par with beer. Packaging the finished product in 12oz bottles would require some retailers to sell 6-packs for as much as US$17. The bottom line is that very few people would purchase a 6-pack of cider for that price given the fact that the inebriating effect is no less different to that of its cousin. There are economies of scale and concentrates that allow some cideries to use 12oz bottles. However, many cideries are forced to use cork-and-cage (champagne bottles) rather than single-serve glass bottles to keep costs low. With their challenge to convention, millennials are giving cideries opportunities to target the single-serve market without glass.
One of the by-products of the hipster movement which may prove to be a boon for the cider industry is the shifting perception of cans. Can technology has improved. The days of a metal aftertaste are over, luckily for the anti-establishment and unpretentious younger generations. For the cider industry, this means that cideries can use these newly-engineered cans to package their nectar. Cideries like Vander Mill, Uncle John’s Mill and others offer canned ciders and these cans are becoming more popular. Those looking for craft cider might be swayed to purchase a 6-pack of canned cider to take home or to a party to impress their compatriots, but few of these people will be willing to flaunt a 750ml bottle, which is, more often than not, symbolic of the lifestyle of the rich and famous. In the on-trade, bars can offer more variety thanks to the introduction of more canned ciders.
Canned cider may be the key to reawakening the cider industry, which went into hibernation well over a century ago, giving orchards the confidence that the industry will be here for the long haul. This confidence will be critical to the continued growth of the industry as many growers will need to adjust their orchards to produce apples used for cider production. This revival of cider comes at a pivotal time when millennials are looking for a story of tradition and the revival of a time dominated not by the forces of mass consumerism but by individual toil and ingenuity. Craft cider is changing the cider industry by offering more complex flavours compared to the cider many Americans are accustomed to. This development fits nicely with the craft beer movement as Americans demand more flavour and backstories from the beverages they imbibe. It also means that the likes of Woodchuck and Angry Orchard, which dominate the single-serve market, will begin to face new competitors, and so may start to see slower growth rates due to this new competition.