Women and innovation are key to growing sales

09 March, 2007

Asda beer buyer Ged Futter has called on brewers to innovate and do more to attract women drinkers.

He said: "Well over half of the customers who come through our doors are ­female. What is actually being done out there to attract women into drinking more beer? In pubs you get a big clanking pint glass, in shops a big brown bottle, with blurb on the back written by a head brewer. There is half a market out there that isn't being approached at all."

Cam paign for Real Ale chief executive Mike Benner added: "It is time we stopped treating women as objects with regard to beer and started treating them as customers. Some of the brands aren't delivering on that."

The conference was shown a number of TV beer ads - including fairly recent Carling and John Smith's ads - which used women only to appeal to male drinkers.

Futter said he has not seen any real innovation in the category in four years as Asda's beer buyer. "If the customer had something new to be excited about there might be more value going back into the category," he said. "We are now seeing premium bottled ales being sold by the case, but there is no innovation, it is just proliferation."

But others argued that brewers are innovating - and pointed out that PBAs are putting value back into the sector.

"Beer is an incredibly diverse market as it is, the range of styles and varieties beats anything else," said Benner. "Where there has been good progress in terms of PBA, I don't think that is celebrated in supermarkets in the same way that wine is. There is still this stack 'em high, sell 'em cheap commodity approach attached to most beer. If there is going to be innovation in the brewing side it needs to be echoed on the retailer side. There is no point innovating at the production end if you don't at the retail end."

Several delegates noted that beer is not being promoted as a healthy drink - even though that aspect might draw female customers.

Wells & Young managing director ­Nigel McNally said: "An individual brand is ­going to find it very difficult to communicate that message [because of the rules on drink advertising], but as a category we can market it. If it is led by some independent body, that is even better. Wine has done it with the message that red wine is beneficial to you, but you've got to drink sensibly."

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