Hard cider is having a moment

"The most iconic scene in the movie “The Social Network” is a parable for the power of new business ideas. Justin Timberlake’s Sean Parker character is sitting across from Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg) and Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), extolling the enormous potential of the little Web-based company they’ve started at Harvard, The Facebook. When a hot, new idea gets off the ground, Parker explains, the possibilities are limitless.

“A million dollars isn’t cool,” Parker says. “You know what’s cool? A billion dollars.”

Every company and industry dreams of bagging the kind of growth rates that could make such pie-in-the-sky talk possible. The basic principles of math make it easy at first. If you sell 10 widgets in your first week of existence and 50 in Week 2, you can invent all kinds of billionaire fantasies — all bound to happen in a matter of months if you keep growing that fast.

Right now, there’s a product growing at an astronomical rate. In the past three years, its market share has surged more than fivefold.

But this product is anything but new. Two thousand years ago, when the Romans invaded what’s now England, they found locals guzzling it. It thrived in the Dark Ages and the Middle Ages. The Pilgrims brought it to America. Benjamin Franklin chugged it, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson made batches of it, and Abraham Lincoln poured it at the tavern he owned before becoming president. The rise of beer at the start of the 20th century overpowered it, and Prohibition all but snuffed it out.

Today, decades after that near-death experience, cider is making a huge comeback. And yes, a billion dollars could be in range.

“When I was a kid, we had Bud, Miller Lite, that’s about it,” said Dan Rowell, president and CEO of Vermont Hard Cider, which makes America’s second-best-selling hard cider, Woodchuck. “Now there are so many more choices.”

Many of those choices have sprung up in the past few years. For a while, Vermont-based Woodchuck dominated the American cider scene, launching in 1991 and going mostly unchallenged for two decades. Then, the floodgates opened. In a span of just two years, scads of new players emerged, with major beverage companies Boston Beer Co. (makers of Sam Adams), Anheuser-Busch InBev (Budweiser), MillerCoors (Miller, Coors, many others) and Heineken staking their claims.

All of those moves have made hard cider the fastest-growing segment of the beer and flavored malt beverages landscape, by a mile. Per Chicago-based market research firm IRI, cider sales zoomed 75.4 percent to $366 million in that same 12-month period through the end of November 2014. That does leave cider with just over 1 percent market share. Still, those in the industry speak breathlessly about cider’s potential for further growth, particularly because cider’s share was just 0.2 percent in 2011. (A note: All of the data shown in the tables is from IRI.)....=====http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/hard...-a-moment/

[Image: cider-bottles.jpg]

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