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Beer – The Female Market – Laydeez Nights

d=”standfirst”>Move aside lager louts, shrewd beer marketeers are targeting the growing number of female bar-goers, says Robyn Lewis

Social and economic changes in the UK have meant that consumers of alcohol are as likely to be females these days as they are males. According to a recent Datamonitor report there is a 3% growth in young adult women’s on-trade occasions across Europe and the US (Datamonitor Young Adults’ Alcoholic Drinks Behaviours Report, 17 June 2004).

With this growth in the visits by women, particularly young women, to on-trade premises, and with their purchasing power in the supermarket offtrade well-documented, women have become a sought after consumer for the industry. RTDs, white spirits and wine have done particularly well in attracting this audience, but now the beer industry is trying for a slice of the pie as well.

You might at first ask yourself why? Beer is a relatively healthy category; popular as a regular on-trade tipple for a significant proportion of men in the country and increasing in market share in the off-trade (see Beer Focus, page 32) but, as the brewing giant Interbrew says, women are increasingly important to the sector. “While they only account for 11% of takehome beer consumption, women are driving change in the drinks market,” says Stuart MacFarlane, managing director, take home, at Interbrew UK. “Sectors such as ready-to-drink brands and mineral water are already targeted at them. Generally, they do not drink a significant amount of beer in the takehome market but they are important because of their role in driving new drinks trends and because they normally do the main grocery shop,” he argues.

Female friendly

One of MacFarlane’s most popular brands, Stella Artois, is, he claims, very popular with women drinkers. “Our research shows that it is the most favoured premium lager among women, being twice as popular as the number two brand,” he asserts. This has been put down to the brand’s “genderless” marketing strategy which includes a long-standing association with film, sponsoring Channel 4 films, and the launch of a 2004 Screen Tour, as well as the long-term, Reassuringly Expensive, advertising campaign. 

“The problem with the majority of beer advertising is that it has a strong male image which is a turn-off for women,” comments MacFarlane. “We believe the industry needs to re-appraise the way it communicates with women so as not to alienate them and to be actively inclusive to female drinkers. Until all brewers adopt a more enlightened approach to advertising, women will continue to be a missed opportunity for beer,” he says.

No matter how “genderless” the advertising campaigns, however, there are some myths surrounding beer that continue to deter women. In order to tackle some of these issues, Coors brewery, as part of its Beer Naturally campaign, has included a women and beer element. This arm of the strategy involves placing a general emphasis on the female elements of the industry  – from female brewers (brewsters) to on-trade CEO’s and bar managers who are women, to the health benefits of beer, an aspect that many think holds the key to the female market.

Sarah Barton, one of the aforementioned brewsters and also director of the Brewster Brewery, believes that the place to start is to dispel the myth of beer as a high calorie drink. “Research has shown that not only does beer have far fewer calories than most RTDs, for example, but there are also plenty of health benefits in beer for women. There’s vitamin B in there and folic acid, as well,” she explains. “I think that we need to work harder as an industry to get that message over, although it will be futile if the negative images of the category, the lager-lout element, isn’t resolved at the same time.”

Presentation, Barton says, is one of the keys. “Not putting beer in great chunky mugs is a great start and the branded glassware that some of the big brewers are now doing is a great step forward. Smaller bottles and nicer half-pint glasses as standard will do a great deal for the image of the category.” 

A new beer on the market, an oak-aged offering from Innis & Gunn, has taken these messages to heart with a clear, sensuous 330ml bottle and branded, stemmed glassware. “While we didn’t start out to specifically target the female market we were careful to design packaging that wouldn’t alienate them,” says managing director of Innis & Gunn Brewing Company, Dougal Sharp. “We’ve been pleased with the reception the bottle has had from females and males and it’s the same with the glassware, which we designed to release the flavours rather than just appeal specifically to women. But it goes to show that marketing to one gender need not estrange the other.” Sharp is also keen to point out that the strategy he has employed in talking about the beer has had a particular effect on female drinkers. “We’ve gone a long way and taken a leaf out of the wine book in using terms to describe the flavour the oak imparts that people can relate to and find appealing,” says Sharp. “We were recently part of the J D Wetherspoon’s beer festival and the way we described the beer in the literature, using terms like ‘toffee’ and ‘vanilla’ brought a lot of interest from women who then wanted to try it.”

Gourmet market

Another tip from the wine industry that brewers are pursuing is the food and drink-matching trend. Garrett Oliver, head brewer at the Brooklyn brewery in New York is also the author of a book entitled, The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food, and he works hard promoting beer and food matching (which is also an integral part of the Beer Naturally campaign). “Beer needs to be paired with food rather than football matches,” he explains. “I’ve worked hard to try and foster a different image for beer, and the vast majority of food writers are women. For example, I once gave a tasting at Gourmet magazine and there were almost no men to be found! That’s still fairly common and so, with a need to make beer more relevant to women, I think the dinner table is a better context than a sports bar.”

Oliver is positive that the industry can make it work, although he says that more could be done. “Interbrew has a number of beers that would appeal to women. Nice glassware also helps. Even traditional cask ale can appeal to a lot of women – it has wonderful flavours. Again, though, better glassware would help. Basically, if brewers don’t start to do their best to appeal to women they are leaving an awful lot of money on the table.”

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