Coors tempted into UK women’s beer market

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Beer, Coors brewing company, Molson coors brewing company

The UK’s second biggest brewer – Coors UK – has set itself the ambitious goal of making women “love beer as much as they love shoes”.

Coors UK, the UK arm of US brewing giant, Molson Coors Brewing, has established a working a group called Eve that is investigating beer formulation, packaging and marketing options that may be more appealing to women than the array of “male dominated” ​options currently available.

Project Eve member, Kirsty Derry, told the beer market in the UK was particularly male-oriented with very few products either aimed at, or consumed by, women.

The percentage of female beer drinkers in the UK sits at about 12 per cent compared with 40 per cent in some other European countries and about 25 per cent in the US.

The figure should and could be a lot higher, Derry said, as Eve’s research indicated there were large numbers of women interested in drinking beer who felt alienated by the fact there were next to no products on the market that “made women feel welcome.”

From the brewery to the bar

“From the brewery to the bar, beer has a very male persona,”​ Derry said. “We want to do more than just get women drinking beer – we want to get them excited about drinking beer. Our philosophy is that beer is a good thing that women are missing out on. That’s what Eve is about.”

No formal promotional campaign had been inked but the company was developing ways of communicating with women of all ages in “non-conventional” ​ways.

This may come as a concern to British bar and pub owners who have been selling underperforming products such as Guinness Red, which brewer Diageo says targets women by having a milder aroma than traditional Guinness as well as being red in colour but which had been backed by scant promotional activity.

A series of beer cocktails had been concocted and promoted at various events by Coors throughout the British summer and pubs were being encouraged to serve certain beers with accoutrements such as slices of orange dipped in sugar.

Coors has two products on the UK market it said were proving popular with female beer drinkers – Coors Light and a boutique beer available mainly in restaurants called Kasteel Cru that was brewed with champagne yeast.

A dark ale called Blue Moon that had proved popular in the US with female drinkers was being trialled in the UK ahead of a more comprehensive roll-out, probably in early 2008.

“Blue Moon is interesting because it is a dark beer but its performance in the US indicates women will drink dark beer if the taste is sweet enough,” ​Derry said.

Barriers to entry

She said Coors research indicated the existence of several beer market entry barriers for women such as the British obsession with the pint serving and the overly bitter “hoppy”​ taste.

“There is also a perception among women that beer is overly calorific which is not the case – it has no more calories per ml than other forms of alcohol. So that is a myth that needs dispelling.”

Other barriers to entry included the rise of “ladette” ​culture that had seen young British women negatively portrayed in the media for binging on pints of beer and alcoholic pop drinks.

“Our research indicates different portion sizes such as 300ml servings as well as slightly sweeter formulations will appeal to women,”​ Derry noted, adding that women of all ages were being targeted.

Coors move comes at a time when UK beer sales are slipping, with a decline in pub-going seen as a factor due to the UK ban on smoking that kicked in in mid-2007.

According to the British Beer & Pub Association, beer sales fell about 4.5 per cent in the second quarter of 2008, compared to the previous year.

At 7.85 million barrels, it is the lowest level since the Great Depression.

Another UK brewery, Greene King, launched a beer called St Edmunds in October that has proved popular with women. The light ale has 4.2 per cent alcohol and is designed to be drunk at a colder temperature than traditional ales.

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