Appeal of the Apple: Exploring consumer perceptions of hard cider in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic United States

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Taylor & Francis


Alcoholic or “hard” cider is experiencing a resurgence in popularity, particularly throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. Yet, many stakeholders struggle to understand how consumers define and distinguish hard cider from the sea of options in the saturated alcoholic beverage market. This study aimed to explore consumer preferences for hard cider using a phenomenological, qualitative approach. The research comprised 14 focus groups with regular cider consumers (99 participants) throughout three leading cider-producing states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic United States: Virginia, Vermont, and New York. All focus group sessions were subject to reflexive thematic analysis for themes broadly related to cider product preference and the cider-drinking experience. Results of the study suggest that cider preference is motivated largely by sensory quality in addition to various other factors including perceived health effects, regionality and proximity, the drinking occasion, and product information. Results also emphasize the importance of nostalgia in cider sensory experiences, as well as the role of social norms in consumer valuation of cider products. Overall, this research highlights diverse consumer preferences for cider and serves as a framework for using qualitative research methods to explore consumer preferences in the food and beverage industries.



Cider, Sensory, Nostalgia, Community, Regionality