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Women key to spirits growth

February 24. 2013 7:06PM
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Lara Prescott tried bourbon for the first time at a friend’s party a few years ago — and she liked it.
After being a faithful wine drinker, Prescott, 31, of Frederick, Md., started drinking Beam’s Maker’s Mark with water, and it has gradually become her drink of choice. Now she experiments with flavored bourbons when at bars.
The marketing and communications manager for a nonprofit, Prescott said she’s tried pre-made bottled flavors, such as Maker’s Mark Mint Julep, and “flavor infusions” at her favorite bar, which steeps the booze with fig or vanilla infusions. She prefers the fig.
While it’s fun to experiment, she hasn’t found one she wants to stock at home.
“If I saw it, I’d be willing to try it, just as something new,” she said. “But so far I’m sticking with just the regular.”
A big part of Deerfield, Ill.-based Beam’s growth trajectory can be pegged to the increasing importance of the female consumer. After decades of catering to men, spirits manufacturers are homing in on women. Experts point to TV shows like “Sex and the City” and “Mad Men” for making liquor consumption more permissible, and a plethora of flavors with making them more palatable.
“Sophisticated women didn’t want to be seen standing at a bar holding a bottle of light beer,” said Frank Coleman, spokesman for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. He added that women may have been offended by mainstream beer advertising.
“It was at least a partial reaction to the denigrating marketing by beer companies,” he said, referring to what he called “frat-boy-in-a-hot-tub” ads that also featured scantily clad women.
Flavored liquor, once confined to vodka, can now be found with bourbon, tequila and other spirits.
“Flavors have been the biggest story of the last couple of years,” and served to “revitalize the category,” said Euromonitor analyst Jared Koerten.
Vodka accounts for one-third of U.S. liquor consumption, but bourbon-makers like Beam also see an opportunity with female consumers and flavors to grow bourbon’s 11 percent overall share.
Beam had historically counted on women for 30 percent of its bourbon consumption. But flavored products like Jim Beam Red Stag, a black-cherry-flavored bourbon, lifted female consumption of that product to 45 percent, the company said.
“It’s hard to like a single-malt Scotch if you don’t drink spirits regularly,” Koerten said. “Some of these sweeter flavors make it a little easier to introduce yourself to spirits.”

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