A magazine ad for Bulmers Cider, seen in September 2017, stated “2/3 of drinkers prefer the taste of Bulmers Original to Magners Original” with small text underneath which stated “SOURCE: Cardinal. 65.8% in a head to head blind taste test, surveyed in Nottingham and London June 2017. Excludes those who expressed no preference. Sample size: 146 regular apple cider drinkers”.
The ASA received two complaints.
Both complainants, including the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Statistics, challenged whether the claim “2/3 drinkers prefer the taste of Bulmers Original to Magners Original” was misleading and could be substantiated.
Heineken UK Ltd t/a Bulmers said that the claim was based on a study that was undertaken by Cardinal Research in June 2017. They provided a copy of the study and an explanation of the methodology used in the test. They further stated that they considered that the sample size was robust and that the report supported the extrapolated conclusion that two-thirds of drinkers preferred the taste of Bulmers Original to Magners Original.
The ASA considered that the ad made clear the number of people surveyed and that readers were likely to realise that the claim “2/3 of drinkers prefer the taste of Bulmers Original to Magners Original” was based only on the 146 people surveyed and not all drinkers. We noted that the number of participants who expressed a preference for Bulmers was 65.8% which was 0.9% less than the percentage representation of two-thirds. However, we considered that because the unrounded percentage was included in the small text, consumers were unlikely to be misled by the discrepancy.
We noted that the size and results of the taste preference test were stated in the small text at the bottom of the ad. We also noted that the report had been undertaken by a third-party researcher and indicated that in the context of the survey, 65.8% of participants expressed a preference for Bulmers Original to Magners Original when asked.
The report stated that 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. We noted that five participants indicating that they had no preference represented 3. 3% 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 (18–34 years old and 35+ years old), 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 which indicated which drink should be tested first. Half of the participants tested the Magners first and half of the participants tested the 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.
We took expert advice on the methodology. We 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, we considered that the sample population was large enough for sufficiently sensitive results which showed that around two-thirds of people preferred the taste of Bulmers Original to Magners Original.
For the reasons above, we considered that the sample size and methodology were adequate to substantiate the claim “2/3 of drinkers prefer the taste of Bulmers Original to Magners Original”. We therefore concluded that the ad was not misleading.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising), 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation), 3.9 3.9 Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. (Qualification) and 3.33 3.33 Marketing communications that include a comparison with an identifiable competitor must not mislead, or be likely to mislead, the consumer about either the advertised product or the competing product. (Comparisons), but did not find it in breach.
No further action required.