Stereotypes about beer being ‘a man’s drink’ still need to be tackled, and more efforts need to be made to introduce women to the wide variety of beer styles available through tastings and education, says Annabel Smith, a freelance trainer and beer sommelier; and Jenny Elliot, beer sommelier for Molson Coors.
Speaking at the International Beer Strategies Beer Conference in Barcelona, they outlined seven issues beer brands need to consider if they are to successfully appeal to female drinkers.
Beer does not have a gender
'When you try to develop a beer, purely for 50% of the population, it will fail'
Do not create a beer specifically for women, emphasizes Smith.
“We know from lots and lots of different initiatives that women don’t want a beer specifically made for women,” she said. “Beer does not have a gender. When you try to develop a beer, purely for 50% of the population, it will fail.
“Women are just like men, they are subjective in their taste, you cannot make one beer that suits half the planet’s population. It’s about letting them discover the different flavors that are available.”
Let women explore different flavors
Women most commonly use the words ‘brown’ and ‘bitter’ to describe beer, said Smith. But this is because their perception has been skewed into thinking that all beer is brown and bitter.
Women need to be introduced to beer with tastings, which should focus on finding a beer that has similarities to other alcoholic beverages they drink already, or is low on bitterness such as wheat beers.
“Once women understand there is a range of different flavors and colors and styles and strengths, that’s when they start on a journey of exploration with it,” she said.
Women beer drinkers
In the UK, women account for around 16% of beer purchases [Kantar Alcovision]
In the US, women represent around 26% of weekly beer drinkers and 25% of weekly craft drinkers [Yankelovich Monitor]
For years beer has been considered as a man’s drink. The industry needs to change that if it is to appeal to women, says Smith.
“We’ve got generations and generations of women who have been told by their mothers and grandmothers and their friends that beer is a man’s drink, it’s not ladylike,” observes Smith.
“We have to try, as an industry, try and unravel all that conditioning.”
Retailers are often guilty of assuming that women will want wine or spirits, rather than offering women beer, she said. By doing this, retailers are missing out on sales.
Think about presentation and serve
Jenny Elliot, beer sommelier, Molson Coors, says that the presentation of beer is extremely important for women.
“I would challenge anyone who has anything to do with glassware manufacture, to encourage women to hold a really beautiful stemmed glass as opposed to a pint glass,” she said.
Smith observes that beer is referred to in ‘pints’ in the UK: whereas in Europe the word ‘glass’ is more attractive.
“It’s about just using one word to almost premiumize beer and make it sound more appealing to women,” she said. “Again, it comes back to conditioning, women think beer comes in pints in the UK. In Europe, consumption is higher because of the brilliant presentation and brilliant serve.”
Communicating calorie information
For a lot of women, weight is a crucial issue and they consider beer to be a highly calorific drink.
Furthermore, the perception of beer as a calorific drink continues to be perpetuated in weight loss advice.
Smith points out that, in fact, a 440ml bottle of 4% lager contains fewer calories than large gin and tonic, and fewer calories than can of coke.
“A way of overcoming this challenge is through education and communication, and talking to women, and putting very, very clear labelling on bottles and pump clips and cans on what the calorific content of beer actually is,” says Smith.
Look to other categories
Wine is a popular choice for women; and something that would help women discover beer is the availability of information, said Elliot.
“We have fantastic wine menus everywhere we go, and beer menus just don’t seem to be as good. There’s not as much information… I do think we’re getting better, but there’s still a way to go.”
Smith says that, in all too many occasions, wine is seen as superior to beer. “We need to take lessons from other areas outside of the beer industry, look at what other categories are doing. I do think the wine industry has been very, very clever in making sure there are wine menus, there is information out there, they’ve listened to what consumers want, and in restaurants you’re automatically offered that wine list.”
Think about your advertising
According to Smith, “Women say the biggest thing that would change the way they perceive beer is the way beer is advertised.”
She has seen big changes over the last five years into gender neutralizing beer – but “unfortunately we’ve got 100 years of male advertising to untangle.”
The use of an alpha male image to advertise beer alienates women, she observes.
“Don’t make beers for women, and don’t advertise beers for women either – that’s extremely patronizing,” she said.