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Thrills and spillage: the changing tastes of Australia’s cordial drinkers (or the Bickford’s phenomenon)

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), Jan-Dec 2009 (n=18,916) and Jan-Dec 2016 (n=14,330).

Like pre-packaged fruit juice, consumption of cordial has been in decline for some time, with the latest findings from Roy Morgan Research revealing that the number of Australians drinking it in an average four-week period has plummeted by 1 million since 2009. But there are a select few brands that are bucking this trend, and thrilling–rather than spilling--consumers. We reveal who’s hitting the sweet spot for Australian cordial fans…

In 2009, almost 35% of Australians aged 14+ (34.9%, or 6.2 million people) consumed cordial at least once in an average four weeks. Fast forward to 2016 and that figure now sits at 26.0%, or 5.2 million people drinking cordial per four weeks.

Such a significant decline in consumption has obviously impacted on the popularity of certain brands. Cottee’s cordial, while still the leading brand, is the highest-profile casualty: whereas it was consumed by 2.4 million Australians in an average four weeks back in 2009, it has since dropped to 1.8 million, a spillage of 600,000 consumers per month. Golden Circle has slipped from 1.2 million to 1 million drinkers, while Schweppes cordial lost 150,000 drinkers (420,000 down from 570,000).

Consumption of top 6 cordial brands: 2009 vs 2016

cordial-chart

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), Jan-Dec 2009 (n=18,916) and Jan-Dec 2016 (n=14,330).

But the most dramatic shift since 2016 has been the stratospheric rise of Bickford’s Cordial, which has gone from 622,000 consumers in any given four weeks to just over 1.4 million, a growth of 125%. While we have reported on Bickfords’ upward trajectory before, revealing the growing proportion of Australians buying it, it is clear that consumption has sky-rocketed to an even greater degree.  

Coles and Woolworths home-brand cordials have also gained more consumers since 2009.


Different states, different tastes

Not surprisingly, Bickfords’ Australian stronghold is the brand’s home state of South Australia, where it is consumed by more than four in every 10 cordial drinkers (40.4%) – putting it ahead of Cottee’s (35.2%). It’s also big in WA (31.7%) and Victoria (29.8%); however, Cottee’s retains its lead in both of those states, consumed by 41.8% of Western Australians and 32.3% of Victorians in an average four weeks.

Queenslanders are similarly loyal to their home-grown brand, Golden Circle: 26.9% of the Sunshine State’s cordial drinkers opt for Golden Circle in an average four weeks, compared with 21.2% who choose Bickford’s. While Cottee’s is the most popular brand in Queensland, consumed by 28.6% of the state’s cordial drinkers, this consumption rate is well below average.

In contrast, Cottee’s remains comfortably ahead of the pack in NSW, where 37.7% of cordial drinkers consume it at least once in an average four weeks, ahead of 26.8% who drink Bickford’s.  

Meanwhile, Tasmanian cordial drinkers lead the country for consumption of Woolworths home brand (21.0% per four weeks, more than double the national average), Schweppes (19.0%, also more than double the national average), and Coles home brand (15.2%). The Apple Isle is less enamoured with Bickford’s (19.4%) and Cottee’s (25.6%) than the mainland.

Norman Morris, Industry Communications Director, Roy Morgan Research, says:

“Like similar downturns in fruit juice and soft drink consumption in recent years, the latest Roy Morgan data shows there has also been a gradual move away from cordial. With stories about how much sugar Australians consume frequently in the news, a growing awareness of cordial’s high sugar content may be one reason for this downturn.

“Amid such a challenging market, Bickfords’ escalating popularity makes for a fascinating case study. Since 2009, when it lagged behind Cottee’s by nearly 1.8 million consumers per four weeks, Bickford’s is fast closing the gap on the long-time category leader.

“Bickfords’ dizzying rise can’t be attributed to it being a new brand with novelty value – it was founded more than 140 years ago! But it seems to have struck a chord with older cordial drinkers lately, with advertising that appeals to adult sensibilities (such as its whimsical “Makes the ordinary extraordinary” campaign), not to mention its appeal as an excellent mixer. In fact, nearly 50% of people who consume Bickford’s cordial are aged 50 or over, compared with 30% of Cottee’s drinkers.

“Furthermore, the 50+ demographic currently comprises 38% of total Australian cordial drinkers (up from 30.5% in 2009), whereas the younger age brackets now account for a smaller proportion. By targeting mature drinkers in a beverage category usually associated with younger consumers, Bickford’s have shown a strong understanding of this changing market.

“To ensure their ongoing success in these challenging times, other cordial brands would do well to reassess their consumer base, identifying existing and potential consumers most likely to be receptive to their product, and tailoring their communications strategy to appeal directly to these people. With the powerful, in-depth consumer data contained within Roy Morgan’s Single Source, this is not as daunting a task as it sounds…”


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About Roy Morgan Research

Roy Morgan Research is the largest independent Australian research company, with offices throughout Australia, as well as in Indonesia, the United States and the United Kingdom. A full service research organisation specialising in omnibus and syndicated data, Roy Morgan Research has over 70 years’ experience in collecting objective, independent information on consumers.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size

Percentage Estimate

40%-60%

25% or 75%

10% or 90%

5% or 95%

5,000

±1.4

±1.2

±0.8

±0.6

7,500

±1.1

±1.0

±0.7

±0.5

10,000

±1.0

±0.9

±0.6

±0.4

20,000

±0.7

±0.6

±0.4

±0.3

50,000

±0.4

±0.4

±0.3

±0.2