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Girl Power: Alcoholic Drinks for Women

Girl Power: Alcoholic Drinks for Women

  A host of reduced-calorie alcoholic beverages catering to women are entering the market.

Cards and candy are nice, but this past Mother’s Day, some Target stores celebrated moms with a different treat: wine.

MommyJuice wine was featured prominently at the front-end in select Target stores Mother’s Day weekend.A three-shelf display strategically placed near the checkout held several dozen $9.99 bottles of MommyJuice, created by a female wine industry veteran who came up with the name after hearing her young children point to her wine glass and say, “That’s Mommy’s Juice!”

Target’s MommyJuice display comes at a time when Beam Global Spirits & Wine’s Skinnygirl brand has transformed the alcoholic beverage industry by giving women an alcoholic brand they can call their own. Skinnygirl has quickly expanded from ready-to-serve margaritas to reduced-calorie wine, vodka, sangria, a white cranberry cosmo and a ready to drink pina colada.

Joining Skinnygirl on retail shelves are a rising number of reduced-calorie and other types of female-friendly wines and spirits, including not only MommyJuice, but also wines like “Mommy’s Time Out” and “Diva”; as well as spirits like Little Black Dress vodka; Mike’s Lite Hard Lemonade malt beverage and Firefly’s Skinny Tea, tea flavored vodka made with the zero-calorie sweetener Truvia.

Adding momentum to the trend is the fact that more women hold high-level positions at alcoholic beverage businesses.

Women account for about 20% of winemakers, up from about 10% two decades ago, according to the Wine Institute, San Francisco, a public policy advocate for California wineries.

“Women are clearly becoming a more prominent part of the business,” said spokeswoman Gladys Horiuchi.

Take Cheryl Indelicato, a member of the Indelicato wine family and the DFV Wines business. She just launched HandCraft artisan wines for the “busy, modern woman.” HandCraft will donate $1 for every bottled purchased in 2012 to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Another factor aiding the female-targeted wine and spirits business is that stereotypes of women and alcohol are fading, said Tom Pirko, managing director of Bevmark, Buellton, Calif.

Not too long ago, spirits marketers tiptoed around the female demographic because of the association with losing control and vulnerability. What has changed is that women now demand to be seen as equals when it comes to alcohol consumption, and marketers are responding.

“Now, it’s open season,” Pirko said of marketing alcoholic beverages to women.

Female-oriented drinks have changed since “Sex in the City” turned the Cosmopolitan into the must-have cocktail. Since about 85% of purchase decisions in the $12 to $15 range for wines are female driven, wine brands like MommyJuice and Mommy’s Time Out create an emotional connection with women.

“It lets women take possession and have something that’s all theirs,” Pirko said.

That’s what Cheryl Murphy Durz, vice president of marketing of Clos LaChance Wines, San Martin, Calif., had in mind when she created MommyJuice for her family’s winery. She wanted to create a brand that addressed women and the stresses they face.

“Almost everything I do is for the kids or my husband or my boss or the school or a friend/neighbor,” said Murphy. “A glass of wine is something that is truly just for me.” 

MommyJuice is currently sold in Target stores in Northern California, select Safeway stores, Stew Leonard’s and Brackett’s Market in Bath, Maine, among several other retailers.

The brand is conducive to food retail sales because women with children are its target market. Clos LaChance even caters to supermarket shoppers with clever materials that read, “Made for Mom’s Who Have Survived the Grocery Store Temper Tantrum.”

Mommy's Time Out

Niemann Foods, Chicago, carries a different “mommy wine” — Mommy’s Time Out — as well as Little Black Dress wines and vodka. The chain, which operates 41 stores under the County Market and Cub Foods banners, is also evaluating “Ivana B Skinny” RTD cocktails; and “Be” wines. Produced by Australian-based Treasury Wine Estates, “Be” wine comes in four flavors, each of which appeals to the buyer’s mood or personality. There’s “Be Flirty,” a pink moscato; “Be Bright,” pinot grigio; “Be Fresh,” chardonnay; and “Be Radiant,” riesling.

Category Manager Marty Miller thinks its smart to market brands to women. He said companies need to be careful not to insult the intelligence or demographic profile of women. 

“The quality of the product still has to be in the bottle, and it has to be priced right,” Miller stressed.

The chain is having success with brands that appeal to health-conscious women, like Skinnygirl margaritas and Jose Cuervo Authentic Light Margaritas.

 “I believe we will continue to see more low-calorie products coming to market, as well as brands marketed specifically towards women,” Miller said.

Among the criteria Martin uses to determine if a brand is a fit with Niemann’s stores: the quality of the product; packaging; marketing; new item launch plans; and price/value to the chain and its consumers.

Niemann is a big supporter of the Skinnygirl brand, carrying not only the margarita, but also three stockkeeping units of Skinnygirl reduced-calorie wines, and two varieties of the new Skinnygirl vodka. 

Indeed, Skinnygirl created a rush of new “women-oriented” products to come to market very quickly, said Miller. Now that more Skinnygirl line extensions have come out, it may create dedicated Skinnygirl displays.

Not all Skinnygirl products are a fit with Niemann’s stores, he said. One example is the brand’s cucumber-flavored vodka.

“This is great for the on-premise bars to offer up a cucumber martini, but we do not see that many grocery consumers making cucumber martinis at home,” said Miller.

If Miller sees increasing consumer demand for the flavor, however, he may decide to sell it.  

One of the brands Niemann is considering is Voli Light Vodka, which contains one-third fewer calories than leading brands.

About three quarters of Voli buyers are women. The brand appeals to women because women pay more attention to ingredients and caloric content, and like what they taste in Voli, said Adam Kamenstein, chief executive officer of Voli Spirits, Los Angeles.

The brand keeps calories in check by limiting sugars and keeping it at 60 proof, compared to 80 proof.

“The lower amount of alcohol makes it more drinkable,” he said.

Voli comes in five fusion flavors including espresso vanilla; raspberry cocoa; and orange vanilla.  A sixth flavor — mango coconut — will soon make its debut.

Such flavors make the vodka enjoyable straight up, without the need for mixers, said Kamenstein. So rather than making, say, a traditional orange creamsicle, a cream-laden drink that could pack 200 to 300 calories, a consumer could opt for an orange vanilla Voli at just 79 calories a serving.

The demand for lower-calorie spirits is a natural progression for the better-for-you trend sweeping nonalcoholic categories.

“The consumer is very sensitive to the caloric value and health value of what they put into their bodies,” he said. 

The focus on ingredients has been amplified with new legislation requiring restaurants to clearly post the calorie count for each item on their menus.

“People are constantly reminded of the caloric content of what they consume,” Kamenstein noted.

Voli is sold in Sweetbay Supermarkets, and will soon roll out to Costco, Ralphs and ShopRite.

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