As beer sales fall, alcohol companies are turning to one of their biggest untapped markets - women.

Over the past 37 years, New Zealand beer consumption has fallen by 2 per cent a year on average, while wine consumption has doubled, according to data from DB Breweries.

The fall in beer drinking has been partly offset by growing sales of craft and low-alcohol brews, and with women drinking more than ever, alcohol c

DB marketing manager Sean O’Donnell discusses DB’s marketing strategies and the increase in female beer drinkers.

ompanies are changing their marketing tactics.


Brodie Reid, business director at Colenso BBDO, says beer marketing had become more neutral, with advertisers moving on from the masculine "men in stubbies" ads of the past.

"Over the last few years the volume of female drinkers has increased, which is fantastic for the beer industry," Reid says.

"It's exciting from an advertising perspective because it means it opens things up a bit more, so I definitely think there's a lot more opportunity to speak to women through beer advertising."

In one example of the trend, Heineken's recent advertising campaign, "moderate drinkers wanted", highlights low-alcohol beer as being a classier way to drink.

As well, this country's largest alcohol companies, DB and Lion, have both launched citrus flavoured beers - Lion with its Speights Summit citrus, lime and apple and DB Export's citrus products in lemon and grapefruit.

Other flavoured beers have also been developed to attract female drinkers.

"We're seeing women pick up a DB export citrus for example over a glass of wine, so that's really opened things up as well - there's so much more choice," Reid says.

DB Breweries marketing director Sean O'Donnell says the global trend towards moderation and wellbeing is also a factor, with women making up a significant proportion of low-alcohol beer consumption.

"Historically, women were not a large part of the beer category's target audience, therefore beer companies tended to market to the majority of their drinkers - men," O'Donnell says.

"As styles of beer have changed over the generations, a wider audience has opened up, which includes a strong women consumer base."

O'Donnell says the combination of changing tastes and a growing number of beer and cider options means advertisers were moving away from male-focused campaigns.

"The gap in the beer market for campaigns targeted to women seems to be emphasised by the strong male focus of historical campaigns, which is based on the fact that majority of the beer drinkers were male."

O'Donnell says the stronger focus on responsible drinking means consumers are drinking less mainstream beer.

DB Marketing Director Sean O'Donnell. Photo / Doug Sherring
DB Marketing Director Sean O'Donnell. Photo / Doug Sherring

The likes of Tui, Double Brown and Canterbury Draught made up just 35 per cent of supermarket and liquor store beer sales last year, compared with 44 per cent five years ago.

At the same time, premium beer has increased from 16 to 21 per cent of beer sales, with craft growing from 4 to 6 per cent in the same time period.

The shift in marketing has also been driven by the growing number of female beer drinkers.

A recent global study by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre of the University of New South Wales showed women have caught up with men in the amount of alcohol they drink.

The study looked at the consumption habits of four million people over a century and found that men and women born from 1991 onwards drank a comparable amount of alcohol.

Ginger Johnson, founder and chief executive of US-based company Women Enjoying Beer, says that for too long the beer industry has ignored more than half of its potential market, and the majority of purchasing decision makers.

"[Beer companies] are ridiculously overdue in realising they must reach out to women with a dedicated effort," Johnson says. "It's about acknowledging with full respect that you want female beer drinkers to be your customers."

"Women in America make 75 to 85 per cent of all purchasing decisions," she says, "and they can make or break beer companies. So it's time for beer makers to retire the old sexist and juvenile jokes and get serious about beer and women. If they don't, they're missing a huge opportunity."

"The enjoyment of beer has been foundational to the development to the United States, and it's a damn shame the beer industry has yet to fully recognise and address women as beer enthusiasts."

Brewers are already trying to win over the female market segment with more colourful packaging, and creating sweeter drinks, and Reid says this is only set to grow.