Speaker Q&A

Cider Trends Summit 2015: Q&A with Mike Beck, president US Cider Association

By Mike Beck

- Last updated on GMT

US Cider Association's Mike Beck says the American cider market is rapidly expanding
US Cider Association's Mike Beck says the American cider market is rapidly expanding

Related tags Cider Apple

Mike Beck, owner of Uncle John's Cider Mill in Michigan and president of the US Cider Association is delivering a keynote presentation at next month's Cider Trends Summit in Bristol. We caught up with him to find out more about the market stateside.

Tell us a little about yourself

I grew up on our family farm, I am a fifth generation apple grower as well as other specialty crops. Apples and apple juice were the driving force of the family farm then. I had a brief career in the construction sector before I returned to the family farm and enjoy outdoor sports when not farming or making cider.

How did you become involved in the cider industry?

I was a board member on the Michigan Apple Committee 15 years ago. At the time there was more apples than demand. I prompted our Committee and local Horticulture College (Michigan State University) to do research on fermented apple beverages. Our own company pursued some grant funding and started looking at making cider and brandy. 

My hope was that myself and others could start using fruit that may have received a lower price at other places and squeeze more value out of the fruit. Further if we could increase the price of the least valuable sector of the crop the rest of the crop will rise with it. We had always made cider as a family tradition (few hundred gallons) we began scaling up in 2001 to a few thousand gallons. We are on pace to make 100,000 gallons in 2015.

How would you describe the state of the US cider market?

Mike Beck, president of the US Cider Association

The current state of the US cider market is exponentially expanding. We are on pace (nationally) to have five straight years of >80% growth. It has been the number one growth sector in the alcohol beverage market for a dozen years. I would say we have not achieved its full potential as a category yet. So room to grow in the market as well. 

Cider was not a part of the alcohol beverage market until Woodchuck started getting its product out in the mid-90’s. There was also a couple of craft producers in other parts of New England at that time. Prohibition killed cider completely; so cider in the US is really only around 20 years old.

What are some of the trends driving the category in the US?

Discovery is the biggest factor. There is so many people that have not even tried cider yet. Locally produced: there are cideries in over 30 states not only in the main apple producing regions but in non-typical producer states (Texas/New Mexico). So people get a connection to the land when they can buy and consume cider on the farm.

Gluten-free - a noticeable trend in America is removing gluten from their diet. So beer is not an option and cider is more approachable than wine when it comes to gluten-free drinking.

Both women and men are discovering cider at an equal pace so we have two solid demographics to market to.

How much of a ‘craft cider’ movement is there in the US?

There is approximately 400+ brands in the US right now. I would say five to seven brands have >85% of the total US market share. So around 350 of them are “craft” producers and probably 250+ are start-up in the last five years. So lots of new entrants in craft market as well as new entries in national market as well.

What’s proving popular among drinkers?

As much as I am apathetic towards them, flavoured cider are very trendy in the market. Fruit, spice, hops, botanicals, chocolate, even vegetables are being blended into cider. There is a small group of consumers that actually care about real cider and the apples used to make them. However, the highly flavoured cider folk outnumber the cider snob by a great margin.

Mike Beck is speaking at the Cider Trends Summit​ in Bristol on 7 July. Visit the website for the full speaker line-up and booking details.

Related topics Cider

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