Thursday 26 March 2009

Beer, the chauvinist drink!

Now that goes against all my mothers attempts to avoid me becoming sexist. It seems though that I'm peddling a most bigoted product. Perhaps I already sort of knew that. Ann doesn't really drink beer, a greater proportion of my female customers don't drink beer compared to their male partners and this is probably a pattern all over this country and perhaps the world. It's surely not the beers fault though, is it?

For a business this is perhaps crazy. Half of my potential customer base doesn't really like to drink one of the main products that underpin my whole strategy. This is not something that I've given much thought about, until today that is.

I got an email today from The Bitter Sweet Partnership, which apparently is a multi-million pound investment by Coors brewers. For some time now this giant multinational brewery has produced little of interest for me. This initiative however has generated some interesting detailed market research results.
"The BitterSweet Partnership conducted research of over 2,000 women to get their thoughts and found that there are very real barriers and myths that exist around women and beer."
The significant result from the research was that there was little wrong with beer itself, only 25% of respondents wanted the taste changed. Most were happy with taste, it was image that was the significant factor.

Direct comparisons were made between the image wine projects against that of beer. There are figures given in the report that show significant biases. Here are the bullet points.

Image of wine drinkers

  • Sophisticated
  • Independent
  • In control of drinking
  • Successful
  • Health conscious

Image of beer drinkers
  • Overweight
  • Binge drinkers
  • Strapped for cash
  • CHAV
  • Uneducated
  • Masculine
Most worryingly this appears to only be a UK based perception. Many other beer drinking countries including America, Ireland, Italy and Turkey have a greater proportion of beer drinkers being female. The report suggests our beer drinking culture is stuck in the 1950's.

Why do women in the UK see beer in such a bad light? OK Coors identify branding as a problem along with targeted advertising aimed at the male proportion of the population. Big breweries sponsor sport, are we really that surprised? I also think that the beer world is very masculine, beer nerds, regular pub goers, beer writers and beer bloggers are generally male.

No pints please

I knew you wouldn't like that. But it seems the women don't like it too big. A nice looking smaller thing is more their choice. A sexy and interesting branded glass would be a much nicer proposition.
"The fact that for cocktail drinkers, the way their drink is served is the second biggest reason for choosing (46% compared with 7% of beer drinkers) suggests a need for the beer industry to offer alternatives to the pint glass."
Beer information

Wine lists and other information it seems makes other drinks more appealing.
"Looking at the experience in bars too, there’s an imbalance between the information available about wine and information about beer on offer. Around a quarter of women said that ‘they never know which type of beer to buy or order’."
..and for the Pub?

Pubs are places where people go to drink beer. Yes, you could drink wine or spirits or alcopops, but most of the volume is beer. If the whole of the beer industry is geared towards and giving out a masculine signal then pubs are missing out on enticing 50% of the population. Anything that can reduce this impression will be good for pubs. Perhaps, for once, I am friends with Coors.


Rob Sterowski said...

I am convinced that 90% of us will drink what our peers drink irrespective of anything else. Go to Bamberg and you'll see women downing beer by the half-litre, because it is just normal there. I bet there are plenty of men who don't really like beer either, but do want to get plastered and it's what their mates drink.

Christi said...

When I was at Ted's pub, and ordered a half, Jake called it the "ladies pint."

Curmudgeon said...

Coors are planning to target women with Britain's first "clear" beer.

The beer, which has yet to be given a name, has an ABV of 4% and is put through an ultra-filtering process that removes its colour. It is flavoured with green tea and dragon fruit, and has a taste similar to an alcopop.

Words fail me, really.

Any marketing-led attempt to address this "problem" is bound to end in failure.

Whorst said...

You're women are strange over there. Largely due to lad culture. I don't think they're terribly fond of lads going out on their own, coming home wrecked and pissing all over things.

Unknown said...

Barm, I agree, and the report says much the same.

Christi, we used to have a lovely French girl work here called Suzy. She called halves Suzy Pints.

Curmudgeon, yes, I sympathise. It might open up the possibility that beer is OK for women to drink.

Wurst, yes, there can be a little too much of what you describe. How can you blame women being anti-beer if this is the effect it has?

Tandleman said...

Curmudgeon. Don't worry. It'll bomb. I'll show my arse on the Town Hall steps if it doesn't. That wouldn't be pretty, but I reckon I'm safe.

Unknown said...

Tandleman, now I do hope it fails. And if it doesn't, please warn me which town hall and when so that I can ensure I am several miles away for certain..

John West said...

At the risk of becoming desperately unpopular, I have long been convinced consumers would like to have more choice in terms of measure than simply the pint and the half.

I like session drinking - going to the pub for three beers rather than just the one. I think there are occasions when I would take a 330ml measure or a 2/3 pint measure over a pint.

In France and Luxembourg, it is commonplace for bars to have 250ml, 330ml and even 400ml glasses.

We have, to some extent, to face facts. The middle class types (and we're back to the class issue) fuelling those pubs offering good food and a range of ales are also the ones concerned about their alcohol consumption.

A 330ml or 2/3 pint glass would be very welcome in such establishments - meaning you could try three different beers but only drink 2 pints.

(I stress here and now I would not 'ban the pint' - it is an iconic measure much loved by many, including myself.)

Mark Dredge said...

The clear beer idea is nuts?! It's worse than light beer.

Dave, I hadn't thought about the fact that half of your customers don't really drink beer, that's interesting. And I guess it's the reason that pubs need to serve decent food too.

The glass is a big factor - the pint is so synonymous with all those negative characteristics. But I guess if you started serving beers in flutes or snifters you'd start alienating your regular pint drinkers?!

But things are changing with beer menus and different glasses and beer is ripe for a wine-style intellectualisation which will open it up to more drinkers. All it needs is a really good TV show to get the ball rolling!

John West said...

Mark said: 'I guess if you started serving beers in flutes or snifters you'd start alienating your regular pint drinkers?'

Good question, but I suspect not. As you'll surely know (though those far from London may not) Fuller's serve ESB in a lovely Belgian-style stemmed glass in many of their pubs and it seems popular.

Unknown said...

You know sometimes the shortest of comments can promote the most thought.

Tandleman, do you think you are being a bit macho? My initial reaction to your comment was one of amusement. However, perhaps the testosterone driven beer scene doesn't help?

I agree clear beer is nuts, but you know, I think it might work.

JJ - at the risk of also becoming unpopular, I tend to agree with all of what you say.

Curmudgeon, do you really think marketing won't work? I don't like it, but big brands do tend to achieve targeted results.

Overall, if you cut through the pink fluffy image on the report, it's powerful information for me, who is trying to work out how to get to this 50% of potential customers before Coors do.

John West said...

(...and ESB is a perfect example of a beer I'd rather take in 2/3 of a pint - a half is just too damn tiny)...)

Mark Dredge said...

JJ, yes ESB has a special glass but there are pretty unique in doing this in the UK and I would say that ESB is a more specialised beer than say Pride or Discovery, so the drinker in a Fuller's who goes for the ESB would be more welcoming of the glass. Pour a pint of mild into it in a local country pub and you might get a different reaction! Although saying this, Stella have those fancy big tulips now don't they?!

Let's just get pint and half pint wine glasses?!

I'm sure I read somewhere that 2/3 of a pint measures are trying to be introduced in the UK.

Alistair Reece said...

Perhaps it would be a good idea to limit serving sizes according to alcohol content, and then serve them in brand specific glass ware?

Whorst said...

ESB is a beer I'd rather not drink on cask. It's much better in Proper Real Keg form. Acutally, it's a totally different beer.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave, Kristy from BitterSweet Partnership here. Many thanks for picking up on us.

In response to some of the comments, BitterSweet Partnership is about listening to all women to understand what they want from a beer. The ‘clear beer’ (which has yet to be named or launched) is just one product that we’re currently testing – we’re looking at product developments to match a whole range of tastes, plus creating better buying and drinking experiences for women. We’ll also be working with Coors Brewers to help inform the way Coors brands generally engage with women in the future.

Jeff Rosenmeier said...

Clear beer - come on - man I'm having deja vu. Zima failed horribly in the States in the early 90's. Coors must still be trying to sell off the stock of this rubbish.

Curmudgeon said...

The consultation about two-third pint measures is reported here. I tend to think it would be a good idea - it would allow people to try more beers without getting legless. Half-pint glasses are just too small to take seriously.

Paul Garrard said...

An assortment of glass styles and sizes could well help with the push towards genderless beer but the biggest success will be when some good PR gets pieces about beer in an all inclusive style onto telly and into glossy magazines.

Jeff Rosenmeier said...

Some insight that I have from trying to sell beer to women...women don't dig bitterness as much as blokes. Most guys abuse their palates (I could murder a curry and a DIPA!), therefore they are a bit more sensitive.

I brew a lot of wheat beer and the low IBUs usually gets the following comment from the ladies: "That doesn't taste like beer" or "I don't like beer, but this is great". Maybe they are being nice to me...

...The glass definitely helps as well. The typical pint glass, whether Imperial or New World, is a rubbish vehicle for decent beer, IMHO.

Matt said...

I rather liked ESB in a keg until I tried it on cask. Now I find it a disappointment on keg. I like kegged Fullers Porter but have never tried it on cask.

Tandleman said...

Dave - Me macho? In this case quite the reverse. My view is that this is a complete insult to women. The poor little things need something like the bizarre product described to tempt them into beer? Rubbish. What they say is " It is flavoured with green tea and dragon fruit, and has a taste similar to an alcopop." Is that the sort of condescension to women that we want? If it tastes similar to a bloody alcopop why don't they just leave women to drink alcopops as they obviously believe women to be poor indiscriminating people with no taste buds?

Now if you are talking, different glassware, less male led pubs, more women friendly environments that is fine, as I don't wish to see women alienated from pubs. Pubs are usually better places when there are women present.

This is just precious nonsense. I absolutely detest this lowest common denominator, condescending rubbish and I bet most women do too.

And I'll repeat my earlier comment too. If ever produced, it'll bomb and if the Bittersweet Kristy cares to have a tenner on that one, she's on.

Tandleman said...

I'll add a recommendation for a woman blogger's point of view. Impy Malting echoes my comments. I'd reply there, but for some reason I am unaware of, I am banned from commenting there. Despite such anti democratic practices, I do recommend her blog.

Unknown said...

Tandleman, my point was that the beer world can be a little macho. Your threat to show your posterior echoed this. (Worryingly, Ann seems slightly excited about this prospect and suggested I took pictures if it ever happened)

There seems to be a little bit of general rude name calling and swearing in the bloggy world that I feel crosses the line of acceptability. This, I know, is offensive to some and further reinforces a Men Behaving Badly stereotype view.

Therefore I agree with what you say. A pub is better with a good mix of people. Making beer and pubs acceptable for everyone has to be good.

Ann also doesn't drink beer except for Kreik. She agrees clear beer is insulting and unnecessary, so there you go.

I think the hard data from the research is useful. Is the way Coors are planning to use it good? Perhaps I have to concede the answer is no. I still think lessons can be learnt.

Thanks for the link. I need to think more about this.

Tandleman said...

I don't believe I swear on my blog. Well the odd "bugger", but that surely doesn't count? Rudeness, I try and avoid, but plain speaking, no. That said, blogs are personal things and people must write them how they like. The reader can decide. I'm no censor.

The expression I used is a common one in Oldham. It was to make a point of unlikeness, not to offend. I am though a male, therefore prone to say male things from time to time. No apologies on that count.

But I am firmly and unequivocally egalitarian. Women do not need beers made for them. I ran it all past my lass Eileen, who agreed entirely and she drinks lots of beer and goes to lots of pubs.

I'm guessing that Kristy, the marketeer wouldn't know pubs from a hole in the ground. She doesn't seem to know women either. Rude or plain?

Unknown said...


Tandleman, you are right. You should not have to apologise for being male. And I do think your blog is fine just as it is. I also do not believe in censorship per se and others can decide their own standards.

Anyway, there is a danger of us becoming sidetracked here. The subject is beer and women. Two of my favourite things. Your suggestion that a pub is better if it has both of those things cannot be wrong.

Having read all the comments the underlying issue is one of culture. Can we trust a large multinational to change our culture for the positive? In hindsight I'd have to say no.

However, does condescending advertising work? I'm afraid, in my view, far too often.

I know Ann has a different view on this to me. I'm trying to get her to write something. She is a non beer drinking woman, a perspective we've not had comment from yet. I just hope it doesn't play out into an on-line domestic.

Kristy_BitterSweet Partnership said...

I’ve worked in the beer industry for over 15 years, and one thing that’s always struck me is that industry has historically either ignored or patronised women. That's why, as a woman who loves beer I'm so proud to be part of BitterSweet Partnership.

Put simply, we’re a business that’s been set up by Coors Brewers to make beer a real choice for women. We know that there are women out there who love beer as it is now, but sadly our research showed us that almost 8 out of 10 women (77%) say they seldom or never drink beer.

BitterSweet Partnership is here, first and foremost to listen to women, to dispel the many myths associated with beer, to develop new products and also initiatives to improve the serve, packaging and drinking experience for all women. So yes, this will mean everything from new products, to different glassware, and more women-friendly drinking environments.