Don’t take your favorite feather shuttlecocks for granted. Because sooner or later you may have to get used to playing with a different kind of shuttlecock. Or so the rumor has it. The demand for shuttlecocks is increasing and supply may not be able to meet demand soon. 

BWF has foreseen this issue by allowing the use of synthetic feather shuttlecocks (from 2021). Badminton Speak will get to the bottom of the feather shuttlecock issue in this article.

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Shuttlecocks for badminton are in increased demand

Estimates suggest that the value of the global market for shuttlecocks in 2022 is in the range of USD 650 million. And it is expected to grow to USD 1.1 billion in 2032. That’s a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of around 5,5%.

If a feather shuttlecock costs USD 3, a staggering 216 million shuttlecocks were sold in 2022. But the total number of shuttlecocks sold – including the much cheaper plastic shuttles – is much higher.

Threats facing the feathered shuttlecock

A feather shuttlecock is formed from 16 or so overlapping feathers, usually goose or duck, embedded into a rounded cork base. Feathers are plucked from the wings of a live goose or duck.

One threat is the sourcing method of feathers. Plucking feathers from live animals have been deemed cruel by animal rights activists in recent years.

Other threats are import bans. For example, India banned the import of all feathered products from China in 2020. And since China is responsible for the production of 90% of the global shuttlecock market, that soon became a problem.

BWF is indirectly a threat to the feathered shuttlecock. Their reasoning is to reduce waste and dependency on the feathered birdie. Their aim is to reduce the demand for the organic shuttlecock by 25% in favor of synthetic shuttles.

Are synthetic shuttles the answer to the supply problem?

Synthetic birdies are more durable than feather shuttles. But their playing behavior is also very different from feather shuttlecocks.
BWF claims that tests of a synthetic birdie from Yonex showed a similar flight and performance, compared to an organic shuttle. But does that mean that top players will feel the same if they were forced to play with synthetic birdies?

Michael Leander
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