‘Mad Men effect’ driving younger Aussies to gain a taste for whisky

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

‘Mad Men effect’ driving younger Aussies to gain a taste for whisky
Top whisky brands have been seeing a seismic market-share shift in Australia with Mad Men-watching younger drinkers quickly developing a taste for premium whisky.

Australians now drink almost 19m glasses of whisky over an average four-week period—around 3m more glasses than in 2009—with the average consumption rate fairly steady at just shy of 10 glasses per whisky drinker.

But in 2006, Australians aged over 65 were the most likely to drink whisky, with those between 18 and 34 least likely. However, from the following year onwards, consumption rates in younger groups began to climb. The proportion of 25-34 year olds drinking whisky has since grown by over 50%, from 8.6% in 2006 to 13% in the year to September 2013.

‘Mad Men effect’

Analysts at Roy Morgan Research have suggested this change in trend is the result of the “Mad Men effect​”. The TV show, which features almost the almost constant consumption of hard liquor by New York advertising executives in their offices, began to air in 2007—the year the number of younger whisky drinkers started to climb.

In the whisky market, not only are consumer preferences changing, but consumers themselves are changing​,” explained Angela Smith of Roy Morgan. 

Perhaps as Don Draper and his colleagues are watched sipping high-end whisky in hit TV show ‘Mad Men’, consumer trends have shifted from mainstream whisky brands to more premium brands [retailing on average above A$40], particularly in the growing 25-34 segment​.”

Now, 25-34 year-olds are the most likely group to be whisky drinkers, followed by 18-24 year-olds, with penetration among 35-49, 50-64 and 65+ groups remaining comparatively steady.

While the whisky market has been changing, so too has the market share of major brands. Nationally, Johnnie Walker Red is the market leader with 22% “share of throat”—of the 18.7m glasses of whisky Australians drink in an average four weeks, almost 4.2 million are Johnnie Walker Red. 

Old brands declining

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% market share.

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

Johnnie 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% share.

Roy Morgan’s research also revealed that trendsetting and educated young urban professionals are considerably over-represented in the premium whisky market.  

It is clearly important for liquor distributers and marketers to stay attuned to how the revitalisation and skewing of the whisky market is affecting the market share of major brands,​” added Smith

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