The Dutch brewing giant has bought the rights to make and distribute #2 brand, the U.K.’s Strongbow Cider, in the U.S. from Vermont Cider Co., the maker of Woodchuck.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Strongbow owns almost 12 percent of the U.S. cider market, and Woodchuck about twice that amount.
The Journal reported that cider sales themselves are up 56 percent in the U.S. as of July, although they remain less than 1 percent of total beer sales in the U.S.
Releases from Heineken and Vermont Hard Cider are below.
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – HEINEKEN USA today announced the addition of Strongbow cider to its portfolio beginning January 1, 2013. HEINEKEN N.V. is the global leader in cider with nearly 25% market share and products available in 20 markets. The Strongbow brand will further complement the leading upscale beer company’s already diverse product portfolio, which includes Heineken, Dos Equis, Newcastle, Amstel Light, and more.
Strongbow — the second-bestselling cider brand in the U.S. — is a crisp premium imported cider from the UK and the leading cider brand globally. For almost a decade, HEINEKEN N.V. has partnered with the Vermont Hard Cider Company to distribute Strongbow in the rapidly growing U.S. cider market, which grew 10% in 2010 and 20% in 2011.
“There is tremendous opportunity to build on the momentum that the Vermont Hard Cider team created over the last nine years. We see this as a pivotal moment to further accelerate Strongbow’s growth by supporting the brand with the full weight of HEINEKEN USA’s resources and capabilities,” said Dolf van den Brink, President and CEO, HEINEKEN USA. “By growing our core and investing in innovation, we will continue to enhance our position as the industry’s leading upscale importer.”
HEINEKEN USA will position Strongbow as the leading upscale cider brand, offering both male and female consumers an alternative alcoholic beverage option. The company will finalize its distribution strategy and marketing plans in the coming months ahead of the January 2013 kickoff.
Since 2011, HEINEKEN USA has added several new brands to its portfolio in addition to Strongbow, including the Newcastle Limited Editions, Amstel Wheat, Indio, and the forthcoming Tecate Michelada.
About HEINEKEN USA:
HEINEKEN USA Inc., the nation’s premier beer importer, is a subsidiary of Heineken International BV, which is the world’s most international brewer. European brands imported into the U.S. include Heineken Lager, the world’s most international beer brand; Heineken Light; Amstel Light, a leading imported light beer brand; Newcastle Brown Ale, the leading imported ale in the United States; and Buckler non-alcoholic brew. HEINEKEN USA is also the exclusive USA importer for the Tecate, Tecate Light, Dos Equis, Sol, Indio, Carta Blanca and Bohemia brands from Mexico. For a safe ride home, download the HEINEKEN USA -sponsored Taxi MagicÔäó application from your smartphone at taximagic.heineken.com. Please visit www.EnjoyHeinekenResponsibly.com.
 USA Cider Market Insights Report 2011
 The Beer Institute: “US Cider Market – Domestic and Import Volumes – Full Year 2005 to 2011”
MIDDLEBURY, VT — The Vermont Hard Cider Company, LLC (‘VTHCC’) recently reached an agreement with Heineken Brouwerijen of the Netherlands to transition our importation rights to the Strongbow┬« cider brand in the United States, effective December 31st, 2012. Beginning January 1, 2013, HEINEKEN USA will be appointed as the new importer for the brand.
VTHCC has been committed to growing Strongbow┬« cider for the last decade. In that time Strongbow┬« has enjoyed 500% growth, received seven consecutive IMPACT Hot Brand Awards, and is now the second largest cider brand in the United States. We are proud of our accomplishments and the momentum we built with Strongbow┬« and wish HEINEKEN USA the best in furthering its success.
This change in VTHCC’s portfolio and operation will not change our course as the leading hard cider company in the country. No jobs will be lost. The plans for a new $24 million cidery in Middlebury remain intact and are moving forward.
It has been a year of great growth for the cider category in the United States with increased competition creating greater exposure for all cider producers. VTHCC is now focused 100% on the brands it owns and remains committed to crafting the highest quality hard ciders, just as we have for more than two decades.
About Vermont Hard Cider Company, LLC
Vermont Hard Cider Company, LLC, located in Middlebury, Vermont, is the leading hard cider producer in the United States, which includes the nation’s number one cider — Woodchuck Hard Cider. Having won 16 IMPACT Hot Brand Awards, Vermont Hard Cider Company, LLC is recognized for its superior cider brands. Vermont Hard Cider Company, LLC handcrafts and manages all levels of quality control in Middlebury, VT by employing a team of cider makers with over 30 years of combined experience directly in cider making and a team devoted exclusively to producing, marketing, and selling hard cider. More information is available at www.woodchuck.com.