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Report co-author Lisa Harlow: despite improvements, women still perceive beer branding is targeted at men

Report: industry could do better interesting female drinkers in beer

Brewers must step up to the challenge of addressing the beer gender gap, according to a new report from women and beer group Dea Latis.

The report calls for more detailed qualitative studies into the psychology of female relationships with and attitudes towards beer. Further, it wants the industry to take action to tackle the issues exposed by its own research into why beer, more than any other drink, is so gendered.

“We know it’s about perceptions, glassware, volume of liquid, range of beer styles, better training – none of this is new,” it says. “But who is addressing this and making this happen so that the female drinking consumer starts to get the same story?

“Is the brewing industry itself endemic in perpetuating and validating sexist stereotypes? While the industry thinks it’s making great strides forward, the female consumer hasn’t come on the same journey.

“We believe it makes economic sense for the brewers to actively embrace this market opportunity. Potential female beer drinkers are out there and waiting – who is stepping up?”

The Gender Pint Gap, through YouGov, surveyed some 2,000 people and discovered that in spite of a higher awareness of sexism in the industry, attitudes among consumers have barely changed since similar research was conducted by Molson Coors’ Bittersweet Partnership initiative in 2009.

Only 17% of British women drink beer at least once a week, compared to 53% of men and 26% of women in the United States. A mere 9% of women cite beer as their main alcoholic drink, against 40% of men. A full 37% never drink it.

What’s stopping them? The biggest barrier, according to the women questioned, is male-oriented advertising. This was mentioned by 27%of respondents, rising to 48% in the key 18 to 24 age group.

“Overtly masculine advertising and promotion of beer has been largely absent from media channels for a number of years,” note the report’s authors Annabel Smith and Lisa Harlow. “The brewers get it: why promote your product to only half the population? But there is a lot of history to unravel. Women still perceive beer branding is targeted at men.”

A fifth of the survey said that high calorie content puts them off drinking beer, accepting the ‘beer belly’ myth that it’s more fattening than other forms of alcohol. Almost one in five, 17%, fears they will be ‘judged by others’ – an especially worrying result that needs to be unpacked by further research.

Positive opportunities for brewers are also revealed. Taste and refreshment are the two main reasons for women drinking beer. These qualities could be communicated better by retailers, the report argues.

Women are far less attracted to the social side of beer drinking, however. Only 26% give it as a reason for choosing it, compared to 39% of men.

A lot of women can be encouraged to drink beer, though, if the pub or bar has a good reputation for it, has recognisable brands and offers tasters and information.

The size and shape of the glass is also important. It matters to 12% of women but only 4% of men. ‘Too much volume’ figures high, too, among the barriers to beer-drinking.

In the off-trade, the choice is predominantly based on price. “Arming women with knowledge about beer through tasting notes, sampling and personal recommendations would overcome the price-led decision,” the report suggests.

One puzzle is why an overwhelming 83% of women who don’t drink beer say it’s the taste that puts them off.

“Can the taste of beer really be gender-specific?” asks the report, speculating that while a bad first experience can mean men, as well as women, can reject all beer, perceptions also play their part - in particular, the perception of bitterness “is notably problematic for women in the UK.”

It goes on to recommend that bar staff are trained to offer women less bitter options, such as wheat beer, and that the industry stops using the word ‘bitter’ to describe a beer.

Despite its own title, The Gender Pint Gap also suggests dropping the word ‘pint’ as a synonym for beer. It suggests: “Change the phrase ‘fancy a pint of beer’ to ‘fancy a glass of beer’ and the perceptions of the drink also change.”

A PDF copy of The Gender Pint Gap can be downloaded here.

Phil Mellows
24th May 2018

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