It's possible 2015 will surpass 2014 in sales, but I think we'll look back and say that 2014 was the year cider became a thing. It was the year cider started taking up at least one tap handle in every bar and restaurant, the year I first started seeing people show up at parties with cider, and the year Anheuser Busch and MillerCoors felt they had to jump in the ring. But if you're wondering what's driving cider sales in the US right now, I have two words for you: Angry Orchard.
Not only has the company managed to scoop up a staggering 56% of the market, but it's also the brand that has driven the rise in cider consciousness. One way to map this is by having a look at internet searches. And despite millions dumped into media by the two big beer companies, all anyone's talking about is Angry Orchard. This comes from Google's analytics:
One interesting facet about cider--possibly overlooked--is that interest spikes at harvest time. This may explain why interest in Angry Orchard appears to have taken such a precipitous nose-dive in recent weeks. Look at how sharply interest spikes around the fall (note that only odd years are listed, so it makes it looks like there are two spikes in a year):
The spike starts around August and hits its peak in October. By January it is near the annual low. This is actually similar to wine, which is also very seasonal. In wine's case, the holidays drive interest, and the peak hits in December. (Beer has a bit of seasonal variation--August is the peak--but nothing like wine and cider.)
One final note. Although it is still a tiny blip on the screen, "craft cider" is beginning to take off. It pretty much didn't exist before August 2011 but is now beginning to tick up in volume--though it's still about twenty to thirty times less common than "hard cider." Still!