Crisp, refreshing, and in high demand: that’s hard cider. In preparation for CiderCon 2019, we analyzed consumer conversations to assess its standing, identify potential threats, and a whole lot more.
Overall, hard cider grew in the US during 2018, outpacing both alcohol as a whole and craft beer in particular. These trends suggest that cider is a meaningful player in the alcohol market despite its small size.
While hard cider is growing, it’s certainly not untouchable. In fact, some traditional alcohol categories have already started stealing conversation share from cider over the past year:
Year over year, cider consumers have increased conversations about these products, while consumers of these products are talking less about cider.
Looking at the chart above, while all of these products are potential threats to hard cider, the most concerning ones show high year-over-year increases and decreases.
For example, Cabernet Franc is a serious rival to hard cider. Cider consumers mention Cabernet Franc at a rate that’s 26.5% higher than they did a year ago. On the flip side, consumers of Cabernet Franc are 17.3% less likely to mention cider than they were at this time last year. That means cider drinkers are defecting to Cabernet Franc, but the reverse isn’t true.
In contrast, cider consumers have become 22.8% more interested in reposado tequila. At the same time, tequila consumers have talked about cider 3.3% less than last year. That makes tequila a potential challenger but not one with a big impact (at least, not yet).
Hard seltzer as a cider challenger
But cider isn’t just being challenged by wine and spirits. Though it’s still a newcomer, hard seltzer is a category we’ve been keeping a close eye on because of its alignment with the health-oriented trends we’re seeing among alcohol consumers.
The vertical bars are conversation share for hard cider and hard seltzer, respectively. The gray background represents the peak period for each beverage, and the line shows their user retention.
While hard cider and hard seltzer are both seasonal beverages (peaking in fall and summer, respectively), they’re not subject to the same degree of drop-off. In fact, hard seltzer’s user retention rate increases even during off-peak months, showing that seltzer loyalists are consistent consumers, whereas cider drinkers are more likely to come and go with the seasons.
When it comes to differentiating trends from fads, user retention is a big deal. Plenty of products see a spike in consumer attention when first released, but those with sustained consumer loyalty are the most likely candidates for long term success.
That could spell trouble for cider, as hard seltzer’s status as a low-sugar, keto-friendly drink could lead to continued growth that ultimately cuts into cider’s market share. Given that women are driving the trend toward health-conscious alcohol consumption and the hard cider category skews toward females, seltzer could quickly become a contender for cider’s crown.