Big Cider Deal

C&C Group of Ireland announced plans to buy the Vermont Hard Cider Co. for $305 million. Vermont Hard Cider is the maker of Woodchuck cider, the biggest-selling cider in the US.

The deal is contingent on antitrust approval since it would give C&C more than 50% of the small but rapidly growing segment. Meanwhile, cider sales in the UK and Ireland are slowing.

In the US, cider sales account for about 0.5% of the total beer market and in the UK that figure is a huge 15%.

Vermont Hard Cider, which is based in Middlebury, Vt., said shipments of Woodchuck are up 25% this year and expects them to top 2.5 million cases. The company is just embarking on a $20-million expansion to build a new 100,000-square-foot production facility. C&C has indicated it will move forward with the project and break ground early next year.

C&C acquired Hornsby’s, a California cider producer it last year from E. & J. Gallo for about $24 million.