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Nothing to sneeze (or cough) at: the annual cycle of throat lozenge and tissue sales

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), April 2011-March 2016, n=89,217. Base: Australians 14+

As the temperatures plummet and the bitter winds of winter start blasting, a familiar soundtrack can be heard: a symphony of coughs, sneezes and splutters announcing that cold and flu season is here again. Not surprisingly, the latest findings from Roy Morgan Research confirm that the winter months are when sales of throat lozenges and tissues reach their annual peak.

In the 12 months to March 2016, 36.2% of Australians 14+ bought tissues/paper handkerchiefs and 9.0% bought throat lozenges/cough lollies in an average four-week period. These figures have remained relatively stable over the last few years.

But when we look at the quarterly figures, a different picture emerges. Every year without fail, more Australians buy tissues and cough lollies during the July-September period than any other quarter. Take 2015, for example: 14.0% of Aussies bought cough lozenges and 39.7% bought tissues in an average four-week period during the July-September quarter (as opposed to 5.6% and 32.0% respectively) in the January-March quarter).

Purchase incidence of tissues and cough lozenges by quarter: April 2011-March 2016


Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), April 2011-March 2016, n=89,217. Base: Australians 14+

Conversely, the proportion of people purchasing cough lollies drops steeply during the January-March quarter. Sales of tissues also slump at this time of the year, although the contrast is not as dramatic.

While colds and the flu don’t discriminate about who they affect, not all Australians are equally likely to buy tissues and cough lollies. At any time of year, a higher proportion of women than men buy these products, and during the peak July-September quarter, this pattern is especially apparent.

While 16.1% of women and 11.8% of men bought throat lozenges in an average four weeks during the July-September quarter last year, the gender skew is most striking for tissues, purchased by nearly twice as many Aussie women (52.0%) as men (27.0%). It is interesting to note that Kleenex tissues’ recent ‘Soften Up’ campaign, featuring ex-footballer Barry Hall, appears to be designed to redress this imbalance.

Norm Morris, Industry Communications Director, Roy Morgan Research, says:

“Obviously, not all consumer goods follow a seasonal sales trend, but tissues and cough lollies are among those that do. The winter months in Australia bring a surge in sales of these products, as more people succumb to the cold and flu season.

“Although women are considerably more likely than men to buy tissues and throat lozenges, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a higher proportion of them get sick in winter. Rather, with nearly six in every 10 grocery buyers being women, they’re probably more likely to purchase these items (particularly tissues) at the supermarket as part of their larger household shop.

“Meanwhile, our data shows that Aussies aged 35-49 years edge out the 65+ bracket as the age group most likely to buy throat lozenges. This pattern reverses for tissues, with fractionally more Aussies 65+ buying them than 35-49 year-olds. Neither tissues nor cough lollies top the shopping lists of Aussies under-35: despite the fact that our health data shows they are actually more likely to contract a cold or flu in an average 12-month period than the older demographics.

“Spanning consumer demographics, attitudes, purchasing habits and health, Roy Morgan Single Source can provide brands and retailers with insights to help them understand who is most likely to purchase their products, both during the peak winter months and at other times of the year – and thus enable them to tailor their communications with more precision.”

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About Roy Morgan

Roy Morgan is the largest independent Australian research company, with offices throughout Australia, as well as in Indonesia, the United States and the United Kingdom. A full service research organisation specialising in omnibus and syndicated data, Roy Morgan has over 70 years’ experience in collecting objective, independent information on consumers.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size

Percentage Estimate


25% or 75%

10% or 90%

5% or 95%