Women Are Craft Brewing's Future

I recently spoke to a journalist doing a story on the future of craft beer. (A worthy topic for a post, but not this one.) He was interested to know how much growth craft breweries in the Northwest might be expected to enjoy. A lot can be said there, but I highlighted one factor I thought has gone relatively unexamined. Per capita beer drinking has remained pretty steady over the years, fluctuating only slightly year by year. Different states consume beer at different rates, but the trendline for individual states remains steady, too. Therefore, all things being equal, if craft breweries want to increase market share, they must take it away from macros and imports.

Ah, but all things are not equal. The other way they can do it is find new segments who don't currently drink beer. And there's a HUGE one: women. They constitute half the drinkers in America, and they barely sniff the stuff. Ladies prefer cocktails and wine. I posted results of a Gallup poll last year showing that only a fifth of female drinkers cited beer as their preferred beverage. (Men, of course, prefer beer--58% will choose it over wine or liquor.)

I just got an email from Gallup pointing me to this year's poll. Guess what--it looks like we're already seeing some substantial movement.

Women Citing Beer as Preferred Beverage

__________________21%_____27% ___+6%
Under 49 years old
___25%_____35% ___+10%
Over 50 years old
____15%_____18% ___+3%
This appears to be real movement. The margin of error is 4%, and the trends are all consistent. While we can't be certain those numbers are exactly accurate, we have to assume the actual movement toward more beer-drinking is. Moreover, if women were taking to beer, you'd expect to see the trend emerge among younger women--and so it is. The really big finding: in the past year, younger women have made a serious move toward beer as their preferred beverage. A year ago, it was the third-most preferred beverage; this year it was way out in front of liquor, and only trailing wine by 4%. It's not unreasonable to envision a future when beer is the preferred beverage among men and women.

Gallup doesn't break consumption down by type, so for all we know, these women might be Pabst drinkers. Surely some are. But you have to imagine that craft beer is picking up a disproportionate share of that shift. The beer is better and more vivid-tasting, and the marketing is far more woman-friendly than the still borderline misogynistic macro campaigns.

If I were a craft brewery, I would be extremely aggressive about trying to market to women. You may convert a few Bud men to your Sang Noirs, but it's going to be a lot easier to convert pinot women.