Young Americans are developing a taste for hard cider, and the makers of K Cider are betting that upscale packaging can make their brand the under-30 crowd’s cider of choice.

A black matte finish with red and gold detail gives the premium look Constellation Brands wanted for K Cider.

To help it get onto retail shelves, this English import from Matthew Clark Brands is using an eye-catching, front-surface printed PVC label.

Manufactured in the UK and packaged in Naples, N.Y., by the Canandaigua Wines division of Constellation Brands Inc., the product is targeted at “badge consumers,” young adults who are very conscious of the packaged brand they drink,” according to Jon Guggino, K Cider brand manager. After a market test in which K Cider quickly established itself as the top selling cider in St. Louis, Canandaigua rolled it out nationally last year. Sales are strongest in the Midwest and Southeast, Guggino says. Package stores account for two-thirds of sales, with most of the balance at supermarkets.

Most shrink sleeves are reverse printed, which gives them a glossy look. Front-surface gravure printing produces a textured look, and a matte varnish overlay on the K Cider sleeve creates an etched glass feel. High-shrink, 50-micron PVC achieves a 64 percent shrink rate, “the extreme of what you can do with shrink,” notes Chris Gambrill, national sales manager for sleeve supplier ITW Auto-Sleeve.

Sleeves are applied at a facility of glass provider Saint-Gobain, then delivered to the winery for filling. A laser code is etched on the sleeve at the filler.

A red hot category a few years ago, hard cider sales growth has slowed to single digits as a flurry of alternative beverages have hit the liquor market. Case sales are 4.2 million, with K Cider accounting for 600,000 of that. When market clutter dissipates, Guggino predicts cider growth will pick up, and K Cider is positioned to appeal to the category’s premium segment.

Chris Gambrill, ITW Auto-Sleeve, 330-487-2282