Whisky drinking increasingly popular among Australians in their 20s and 30s

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 10th February 2014
Whisky drinking increasingly popular among Australians in their 20s and 30s

Whisky drinking is gaining popularity among Australians in their 20s and early 30s, causing potentially seismic market-share shifts in the top whisky brands, according to the latest findings from market research organisation Roy Morgan Research.

Australians now drink almost 19 million glasses of whisky in an average four weeks — around three million more glasses than in 2009 — with the average consumption rate fairly steady at just shy of 10 glasses per whisky drinker.

Younger generations overtaking older generations as whisky drinkers

But in 2006, Australians aged over 65 were the mostly likely to drink whisky (10 per cent in an average four weeks) and those aged 18 to 34 years were least likely (8 per cent). But from 2007, consumption rates in younger groups began to climb: the proportion of 25- to 34-year-olds drinking whisky grew by over 50 per cent, from 8.6 per cent in 2006 to 13 per cent in the year to September 2013.

Roy Morgan Research’s latest findings showed that now 25- to 34-year-olds were the most likely group to by whisky drinkers, followed by 18- to 24-year-olds (11.9 per cent), with penetration in the 35-49, 50-64 and 65 and older groups remaining comparatively steady.

“In the whisky market, not only are consumer preferences changing, but consumers themselves are changing,” said Angela Smith, Group Account Manager Consumer Products, Roy Morgan Research. “Perhaps as Don Draper and his colleagues are watched sipping high-end whisky in the hit TV show ‘Mad Men’, consumer trends have shifted from mainstream whisky brands to more premium brands, particularly in the growing 25 to 34 segment,” she said.

Brand share among whisky drinkers

And as the whisky market changes, so do the market shares of major brands, according to Roy Morgan Research.

Nationally, Johnnie Walker Red is the market leader with 22 per cent ‘share of throat’: of the 18.7 million classes of whisky Australians drink in an average four weeks, almost 4.2 million are Johnnie Walker Red.  The market share of Grant’s, Black Douglas and Ballantine have all substantially declined over the past five years and been overtaken in popularity by Jameson, Chivas Regal and Johnnie Walker Black — the latter each now with 10 per cent market share.

But among 25- to 34-year-old whisky drinkers, Jameson replaced Johnnie Walker Red as the most popular brand, with the two almost switching market shares. In this group, Jameson claimed 22 per cent of the market to Johnnie Walker Red’s 13 per cent. In fact, half of all glasses of Jameson poured in an average four weeks were drunk by 25- to 34-year-olds.

Johhnie Walker Red’s share in the 25-34 bracket is equal to that of Chivas Regal, and only just ahead of Johnnie Walker Black’s 11 per cent share.

Roy Morgan said educated young urban professionals (‘Metrotechs’) were “considerably over-represented” in the Premium whisky market.

“It is clearly important for liquor distributors and marketers to stay attuned to how the revitalisation and skewing of the whisky market is affecting the market share of major brands,” Ms Smith said.