Woodchuck Cider Changes Hands in New York

Manhattan Beer Distributors, one of the country’s largest beer wholesalers, is taking a harder look at the cider category.

The Bronx, NY-based wholesaler confirmed today that it has acquired the distribution rights to Woodchuck Hard Cider, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the C&C Group which also produces and markets the Magners, Hornsby’s and Blackthorn cider brands in the U.S.

Beginning February 1, Woodchuck will change hands from a collection of five New York wholesalers to Manhattan Beer.

“The main crux of our move was that we had five wholesalers selling Woodchuck while our Magners brand was being sold by Manhattan,” said Terry Hopper, the vice president of sales for Vermont Hard Cider.

Nonetheless, Manhattan Beer has made a habit of attracting key craft beverage brands in recent months. Last week, the company inked a distribution agreement with Conn.-based Two Roads Brewing and, midway through 2013, the wholesaler secured the rights to Avery BrewingShmaltz, Shiner, Shlafly and Pyramid.

To acquire the Woodchuck brand, Hopper said Manhattan Beer paid “fair market value” to five wholesalers: Oak Beverages, S.K.I. Beer, Boening Brothers Distributors, Lobo Distributing Co., and Gasko-Meyer.

“From a logistics standpoint, it just made the most sense to consolidate,” said Hopper. “It allows our sales team more flexibility, working with only one wholesaler. Manhattan is one of the strongest in that market.”

But Magners, Hornsby’s, Blackthorn and Woodchuck (all part of the C&C portfolio) aren’t the only cider brands that Manhattan Beer now controls. The wholesaler also distributes Angry Orchard — the best-selling and cider brand in the country — throughout the five boroughs. The company is also preparing to launch the much smaller, NY-based Bad Seed Cider Company across its 15-county footprint.

“The opportunity to sell the number two cider brand in 14 counties and the number one cider brand (Angry Orchard) in the five boroughs enables us to build the category,” said Rob Mitchell, the vice president of craft beer, wine and spirits sales for Manhattan Beer.

It’s also not the first time Vermont Hard Cider has consolidated its distribution. The company has made similar moves in Nebraska, Texas and Florida over the last 12 months, Hopper said.

“It’s an exciting time for the cider category and we are positioned to be here for the long run,” said Hopper. “This move will give each brand the strongest opportunity to grow in the market.”