The ASA received two complaints about Heineken’s cider brand Bulmers, including the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group on statistics, challenged whether the claim “two out of three drinkers prefer the taste of Bulmers Original to Magners Original” was misleading and could be substantiated.
Heineken UK, which has received a total of 10 complaints since 2013 and all of them have been rejected by the advertising watchdog, said the claim was based on a study conducted by Cardinal Research in June 2017.
The company provided a copy of the study and an explanation of the methodology used in the test. It further stated that it considered the sample size was robust and the report supported the conclusion that two thirds of drinkers preferred the taste of Bulmers Original to Magners Original.
The claim was rejected because the ASA considered the advert made clear the number of people surveyed and that readers were likely to realise the claim was based on just 146 people surveyed, not all drinkers.
The watchdog noted the number of participants who preferred Bulmers was 65.8%, which was about 0.9% less than the percentage representation of two thirds.
However, it considered that because the unrounded percentage was included in the small text, consumers were unlikely to be misled by the discrepancy.
It also noted the size and results of the taste preference test were stated in the small text at the bottom of the ad.
Also, the survey had been undertaken by a third-party researcher and indicated in the context of the survey, 65.8% of participants expressed a preference for Bulmers Original to Magners Original when asked.
The report stated the total sample tested consisted of 151 people, and that five people expressed no preference and 146 expressed a preference for either Bulmers or Magners.
It said the five participants indicating that they had no preference represented of the total sample and considered therefore that it was acceptable to exclude them from the final preference claim in the ad.
It also stated that the test was undertaken in two locations, with half of the participants in London and half in Nottingham.
It further explained that the proportion of male and female participants and the number of participants in each of the two age categories (18 to 34 years old and 35-plus), were weighted in accordance with Kantar Worldpanel Alcovision data to ensure that the sample was correctly weighted to ensure a representative sample of cider drinkers.
The advertiser also set out the methodology used in the test and explained that each participant had a dry cracker and water before each drink and that they were blinded to which drink they were tasting.
The drinks were presented, unmarked, side by side on a tray that indicated which drink should be tested first.
Half of the participants tested Magners first and half of the participants tested Bulmers first, which we considered was an acceptable rotation of the drinks.
The participants had three gulps of each drink and then were asked by an interviewer to make an overall taste preference. Both drinks were served over ice.
The ASA also took expert advice on the methodology and considered that, for a market research survey, the sample used by Heineken was a reasonable match to the Kantar data and it was therefore sufficiently representative of the cider-drinking population.
Further, it considered the sample population was large enough for sufficiently sensitive results, which showed that about two thirds of people preferred the taste of Bulmers Original to Magners Original.
A Heineken spokesperson said: "We take great pride in the accuracy of our adverts and are pleased the ASA has confirmed our robust methodology.”