A-B InBev Plans 'Johnny Appleseed' Cider

New Brand to Get 'Significant Marketing'

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Anheuser-Busch InBev will introduce a hard cider brand next year called Johnny Appleseed, the latest sign that big brewers think the cider trend is here to stay.

The logo for the planned hard cider
The logo for the planned hard cider

The brand, described as having a "unique balance of sweetness and intensity," will debut in the spring and be backed with "significant marketing support," the brewer said in a memo to distributors, calling it a "major new brand launch." The company confirmed the planned new brand in a statement but declined to provide further marketing details, including specifics on the media buy or which ad agency will get the assignment.

The brand logo shows a letter "A" affixed to a sack of apples embroidered with a "J," for Johnny.

MillerCoors and A-B InBev were both absent from the U.S. cider market as recently as 2011. But the big brewers began jumping aboard last year as the cider trend showed staying power. Total volume sales of cider grew to 85.4 million last year from 59.2 million liters in 2011, according to Euromonitor International, whose statistics also include fermented pear juice.

MillerCoors acquired Crispin Cider Co. of Minnesota in early 2012. Next year the brewer will make its largest cider play with a new brand called Smith & Forge Hard Cider that is expected to get significant advertising. The brand -- which checks in with 6% ABV, above the average cider alcohol content -- seeks to exploit what the brewer described as a "massive unmet need" for ciders that target males. The agency is WPP's Cavalry.

MillerCoors' Smith & Forge Hard Cider
MillerCoors' Smith & Forge Hard Cider

A-B InBev, meanwhile, has gotten involved with cider line extensions of Michelob Ultra and Stella Artois, which it markets as "Cidre." But the Johnny Appleseed launch is proof that the brewer is making a long-term commitment to cider by putting resources behind a new brand. It will primarily target drinkers ages 21 to 27, according to the distributor memo, which noted that the brand had been in development since 2011. "Cider is a rapidly growing category and Johnny Appleseed is uniquely positioned to capture share of volume and share of voice in this expanding segment," the memo said.

Beer trade publication Beer Marketer's Insights reported that Johnny Appleseed is "designed to go head-to-head with Angry Orchard," referring to the successful cider brand marketed by Sam Adams brewer Boston Beer Co.

Angry Orchard gained an impressive 28.95 share points in the 52 weeks ending Nov. 3, according to IRI. The brand now controls a leading 47.29% share of the cider category with $91.2 million in sales in the period, according to IRI, whose figures do not include bars and restaurants.

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