In the search for an alcoholic beverage program to boost its influence with Millennials, Asian street food brand Asian Box stumbled upon an option that goes beyond the typical beer and wine selections: hard cider.

CEO Frank Klein says ciders are not only novel and differentiating, but also go well with the spicy food Asian Box serves. “They’re earthy, they have texture, they have sometimes bright fruit flavors, they have acids,” Klein says. “We really wanted to offer something that was different, but also something that was progressive within our core segment, which is Asian food.”

Because Asian Box is a certified gluten-free restaurant, Klein says the brand wanted to create a beverage program—ciders included—that fit this bill. Each cider is both gluten free and sourced locally.

First launched at Asian Box’s Mountain View, California, unit, the beverage program—which also features beer and wine—will roll out to an additional unit in San Francisco.

Cider selections at Mountain View include local Sunnyvale Red Branch Hard Apple Cider, available in “shorty” and “tall” sizes for $4.95 and $7.95, respectively. Spire Mountain Pear Cider from Washington, available by the bottle, will also be available.

Klein says the brand has a lot of variety to choose from in the cider segment, with options like light ciders or heavy ciders that are available on draft or in the bottle.

Though the beverage program only launched recently, it has already improved traffic during the dinner daypart, Klein says, and has marginally improved business during the day.

“We have found demonstrably based on the sales levels and the new customer base that people are really coming in to see what the new pairing tastes like, especially the new cider program,” Klein says. “What we’re finding is that the hard cider is a driving component, especially at nighttime. … It’s more of a communal thing to pair with the street food.”

Klein says he expects others in the category to begin adding ciders to their beverage program, “but we like to be a mover, we like to be ahead.”

“We’re always looking at things that are brand extensions … that we can serve readily and are acceptable, and cider was just a natural [addition],” Klein says.

By using local cider producers in each market, Klein says the brand is also able to “stay close to the community.”

“We’re able to put money back into the local businesses and work with local producers,” he says. “It’s part of our brand, and that’s a differentiating factor, but it’s also part of our core—working with local businesses, working with local farmers. And this gives us the ability to work with small, artisanal alcohol producers.”

By Mary Avant

Beverage, Emerging Concepts, Growth, News, Asian Box