The rise of mixers and sparkling waters in Australia as ‘conventional’ soft drinks fall

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 31st March 2014
Sparkling waters are on the rise in Australia

In the last five years, the proportion of Australians drinking soft drinks such as colas and lemonades in an average seven days has declined from 56 per cent to 49 per cent, but could it be that more consumers are simply starting to enjoy a different kind of carbonate beverage?

Australian market research organisation Roy Morgan Research found that between January 2009 and December 2013, consumption of unflavoured sparkling mineral water increased slightly from 7 per cent to 8 per cent, while the percentage of Australians drinking ‘mixer’ drinks such as tonic water or dry ginger ale also rose, from 10 per cent to 12 per cent. These categories were still consumed by far fewer people than Coke, Sprite, Fanta and other similar beverages, but their growth contrasts with the gradual decline of conventional soft drinks.

“As consumer preferences shift away from sugar-laden soft drinks such as colas and lemonades, and towards other ‘healthier’, more ‘natural’ sparkling beverages, we’ve seen increased marketing activity in this segment, from Liptons’ recently launched sparkling iced teas to Scarlett Johansson’s appointment as the global brand ambassador for Sodastream,” said Angela Smith, Group Account Director Consumer Products, Roy Morgan Research.

The age factor

Sparkling (non-soft) drinks were especially popular with the Baby Boomer generation, with 16 per cent drinking mixers and 10 per cent drinking unflavoured sparkling mineral water in an average seven-day period. Both these figures were above the national average.

Pre-Boomers also had a taste for mixers (17 per cent drink them in an average seven days), but were not so sold on sparkling mineral water (7 per cent).

Roy Morgan Research said the younger generations (Y and Z) tended to be less enamoured of mineral water and mixers and were more likely to drink soft drinks than the Boomer generations. However, even their consumption of soft drinks appeared to be gradually declining.

“While younger Australians aren’t quite as keen on unflavoured sparkling mineral water and mixers as their older counterparts, the overall move to these drinks is changing the nature of the non-alcoholic beverage market,” Ms Smith said.

“Not only are we moving gradually away from soft drinks, but fewer of us are drinking fruit juices, energy drinks and sports/health drinks than were five years ago too,” Ms Smith said. “It seems our tastes are slowly but surely evolving towards ‘lighter’, less heavily flavoured beverages,” she said.

Roy Morgan Research said its new profiling tool, Helix Personas, found that in the last two years 20 per cent of people aged over 14 in the ‘Smart Money’ persona drank mixers in an average seven-day period — well above the national average of 12 per cent.

“Smart Money individuals are typically highly educated, affluent and successful in their chosen professions,” Ms Smith said. “They’re also extroverted and generous, and enjoy socialising. Chances are they’re probably drinking mixers in the way they’re intended: in combination with top-shelf spirits,” she said.