Just five years ago, cider barely registered as a popular drink. Back then, alcopops were all the rage, prompting lawmakers to loudly voice their concerns about the level of consumption of pre-mixed spirits.
Fast forward to 2014 and the latest data from Roy Morgan Research reveals that cider consumption is set to overtake that of pre-mixed spirits, perhaps even within months.
In the year to March 2010, nearly 2.4m Australian adults drank pre-mixed spirits in an average four weeks, while only one-quarter of that figure drank cider over the same period.
No doubt influenced by the excise tax increase on pre-mixed spirits in 2008, the number of alcopop drinkers has been steadily declining over the last five years as cider—which was not subject to the tax increase—has quietly gained popularity.
In the year to March 2014, the number of cider drinkers (2,009,000) was just 100,000 short of the number drinking pre-mixed spirits, and if the growth trends continue, cider drinkers will outnumber those consuming alcopops by the end of 2014.
Cider’s stratospheric growth is consistent across ages, genders, city dwellers and country folk. While there is no doubt that most cider drinkers are aged under 35, the proportional growth in consumption has been similar across all age groups.
For example, between 2010 and 2014, the proportion of men aged between 25 and 34 who drank cider in an average four-week period rose from 7.4% to 21.4%—an increase of over 200%.
Though the proportion of women aged 35-49 drinking cider was smaller, growth among this group over the same period was more than 250%, from 2.8% to 9.9%.
At the same time, the number of pre-mixed spirits drinkers has declined among all age groups, except for men aged 50-64, who are more likely to be drinking pre-mixed spirits than they were in 2010.
The alcopop tax has been good news for cider producers, says Angela Smith of Roy Morgan Research.
“The last five years have seen cider’s popularity sky-rocket. But cider’s gain seems to be alcopops’ loss, with the number of people drinking pre-mixed spirits dropping,” Smith said.
“A major factor in the trend has almost certainly been the higher taxes on pre-mixed drinks, as well as a steadily increasing range of cider brands on the market.”
Demographically, almost one-quarter of drinkers in the “Young and Platinum” group of cashed-up Australians who are prepared to try new products drank cider in any given four weeks, compared to the national average of 11%, so it is no surprise that this segment has picked up on the cider trend, Smith said.
“On the other hand, 25% of the “Strugglestreet” demographic drank pre-mixed spirits—more than double the national average of 12%,” she added.
“Strugglestreet are characterised by low incomes and trying financial circumstances, which generally prevent them from jumping onto the latest trends, such as cider.”