Beer for Women

There was a collective rolling of eyes as a new ‘Beer for Women’ surfaced on social media this week. I decided to leave well alone except for pointing out ‘this is going to end badly’ on Twitter, however it has been niggling away at my brain. That means I have to write a blog post about it to get some peace of mind. I watched a Napa Valley TedX talk the other day from entrepreneur Ginger Johnson. It was called A Hammer, Beer & Women. In it she eloquently describes the problems that exist with products made for, and marketed to, women. The pink phenomenon. Being offered a pink hammer that is made from inferior materials but has a premium price tag, because *you know* PINK! We’ve seen the same thing in this country with pink biros and pink razors.

Ginger Johnson talks compellingly about sexist marketing. And she asks us to call it out when we see it. And she is right to do that. Which is probably why this product niggled my brain and wouldn’t let go.

What do women want?

What women want, marketeers, is a good quality product at a reasonable price. It doesn’t have to be pink to avoid offending our delicate sensibilities. Nothing wrong with pink, but not at the expense of functionality or at a premium price. It doesn’t need to come in a smaller size for our delicate hands. There are very few products that really need to be gendered. Sanitary towels only really work for people who have periods. Bicycle seat come in different shapes depending on what genitals you have, for additional comfort. Bras work for people with breasts looking for a certain kind of support or shape. Notice how none of those are necessarily exclusively women? And beer, you will be amazed to discover, can be enjoyed by literally anyone of any gender identity who likes the taste of beer.

Coconut Flower Beer

Despite this we are still seeing the lazy marketing of beer to women. The current product under discussion only exists in the public domain as a short clip of a close up label on a rolling bottle with water droplets clinging artfully to the side and a short social media caption:

A sneak peek of our bottle. Exotic | Bold | Unique. Our beer is not just a drink… it’s an experience! #CoconutFlowerBeerforWomen #CoconutFlowerBeer #neitiv #coconut #coconutlover #UKbeer #wiltshire #beerlover #cfb4W #iamneitiv #britishbeer #britishbeercompany #lowalcoholbeer #lowcalorie #vegan

I’m sure you can find it for yourself if you want to

Let’s hope that bottle is just a mock up because I guarantee they will be hard pressed to find a market for this product in the UK. We discover this is a ‘Coconut Flower Beer for Women’ – this is front and centre on the label and the first hashtag they have chosen. The hashtags also inform us it is low alcohol, low calorie and vegan. I have no idea which of these elements the manufacturers specifically think make this beverage ‘for women’.

Dig a little deeper

Who is making this product then? Because I have never heard of coconut flower drops before, so I don’t know what coconut flower beer is exactly, nor what it would taste like. On a bit of exploration, we can see that this company is operated by a Wiltshire based couple, one of whom sits on the board of the local LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership), so is clearly a respected part of their local business community. The female partner wrote and directed a film in 2017 starring the male partner too according to Mr Google so that’s exciting. They sound very interesting, but they don’t appear to be brewers.

However, examining the really quite niche hashtag #coconutflowerbeerforwomen we discover a linked Instagram account concerned with All Things Coconut which sheds a little light for us. One of their posts tells us what Coconut Flower Drops are:

Just like any flower, Coconut flowers or inflorescence produce nectar. Coconut flower nectar is known as Coconut Flower Drops (CFD) or Coconut Flower Sap (Not to be confused with coconut sap, which is obtained from the coconut tree trunk). It is a sweet translucent substance.

All Things Coconut

The account’s owner talks of their research into this coconut flower nectar over the last two years. They believe they have found something of an untapped (ironically, as the flowers must be tapped to obtain the liquid) superfood – full of nutrition apparently. In other posts they also how the wild yeasts in these drops can create a spontaneous fermentation in this high sucrose liquid, creating an alcoholic liquid. Now I see where the beer connection could be coming in!

Coconut Flower Beer

Now I don’t know about you, but I’m intrigued. We have seen honey used in the brewing process for many centuries, so I don’t see using a specific nectar within the process as being wildly surprising. I don’t know whether it would be a functional ingredient or an adjunct. But I certainly wouldn’t be adverse to someone marketing a beer to me using this product and telling me all about the interesting aromas, flavours and textures I can expect to enjoy. It could be a total gimmick. But it might not be. So why have we ended up with a ‘beer for women’ that is low alcohol and therefore low calorie (because of course all women are on a diet and couldn’t possibly countenance drinking a full strength beer, heavens to Betsy!) Why can’t everyone just enjoy a beer made with coconut flower nectar?

The low alcohol market is booming. Experimentation with flavour in beer has never been more prolific. It could be a great time to release a product like this. With a new label.

Doubling Down

But not only have they spectacularly missed the mark, they have doubled down on their error. When veteran beer writer Melissa Cole and several others quite rightly picked them up on the problems with their branding they decided to use a copy and paste response that not only didn’t address anyone’s concerns, it actually made things worse.

They may be a respected part of the Wiltshire business community, but marketing does not appear to be their strong suit. First off, don’t use the same response to fob people off. We can all see all the comments and can see that you can’t be bothered to address people individually.

Coconut Flower Beer can be enjoyed and experienced by people of all genders. Our intention was not to offend anyone, or alienate any group with the name of our beer. Please don’t construe the name literally. Our intention is solely to raise awareness, provide solidarity, and challenge the deep-rooted stigma in many cultures towards women drinking beer.

Comment standard response

The part I find particularly interesting is them telling people not to construe the name literally, implying that they meant ‘beer for women’ was not to be taken literally. Did I mention that’s the most prominent part of the label as we’ve seen it so far? Takes me back to the Brewdog Pink IPA fiasco a few years ago where they tried to be so ironic in biting back at sexism in beer that they ended up apologising for creating a product that did a textbook job of perpetuating sexism in beer.

In short

Apparently this is out next week and their social media is going to tell us more about how their brand is raising awareness, providing solidarity and challenging deep rooted stigmas towards women drinking beer. So that’s something to look forward to.

The makers may also wish to note that their font is quite hard to read so it looks a bit like they are selling coconut flaver (sic) beer. But that’s potentially the least of their worries. Still, this is a lot of free focus group time for them.

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