Gender specific: How FMCG manufacturers can position drinks products to target male and female consumer need states

Drinks products designed to target either men or women walk a fine line between appealing to consumers and patronising them by using traditional or outdated gender stereotypes. Eloise McLennan sums up the trends FMCGs brands can use to target genders as identified in a Canadean report by Ronan Stafford and Kirsty Nolan


Traditional methods of gender-specific marketing are becoming outdated as attitudes towards gender roles change. Image courtesy of oneinchpunch


Blue for boys and pink for girls has been the stereotypical go-to for brands looking to create products which target a specific gender. While this may have been an effective way to easily distinguish products on the shelves and appeal to a target demographic in the past, a dynamic shift in social norms has blurred the boundaries between genders. Combined with increasingly liberal attitudes and a prominent LGBTQ community, this cultural evolution makes gender targeting increasingly complex. Once clear cut boundaries between masculine and feminine products have been blurred, and products that are seen to promote outdated gender profiles risk evoking the wrath of consumers. 

While blue and pink marketing may be on its way out, there is still potential for brands to create tailored products that target gender-specific areas of concern without reducing consumers into male and female stereotypes. A new report from Canadean, titled ‘TrendSights Analysis: Gender Specificity: Rethinking how to target gender in FMCG markets’ explores how improved knowledge of differences in male and female physiology means there are new opportunities for products that emphasize that they are ‘made for men’ or ‘made for women’.

‘Better for me’ beverages

"Functional drinks will be an important growth category for gendered products."

For beverage manufactures in FMCG markets, creating products that appeal to a mass market is becoming increasingly challenging as consumers move towards more niche and fringe trends as a way to define themselves. This transition away from the ‘average’ consumer towards a more individualised society is evident in the changing roles of gender, which makes targeting a specific group more difficult as products cannot be produced en masse in a ‘one size fits all’ format.

While blurring gender boundaries means that it will be increasingly difficult for brands to target cultural differences between the genders, Canadean forecasts that increased access to information surrounding human biology and the different nutritional needs of each gender will provide opportunities for brand’s to create drinks which target specific physiological needs of males and females.

According to Canadean, functional drinks will be an important growth category for gendered products as consumers seek out beverages that cater to specific health or nutritional needs. For example, drinks which contain ingredients that are beneficial for pregnant women, calcium-enriched drinks for women at risk of osteoporosis, and protein drinks that take into account the recommended daily allowances for each gender.

Low-sugar and low-calorie drinks have also been a key target for gender-specific development among soft drinks manufacturers. Although weight management and obesity affect both genders, these ‘diet’ drinks have been traditionally marketed towards women. In an attempt to widen their appeal and encourage more male consumers, a number of brands have launched more ‘masculine’ versions of diet soft drinks, for example Coca-Cola Zero, to varying degrees of success. However, as consumers continue to move away from sugary drinks, Canadean forecasts that finding ways to successfully target low-calorie soft drinks at men will become increasingly important.

Smoothies and hot tea have also been identified as two areas where gendered drinks could be used to target men. Both of these categories are traditionally seen as feminine, which creates an opportunity for brands to target men's tastes, as well as removing female gender associations.

Breaking boundaries

"Men are more likely than women to look for a drink that consciously targets their gender."

Unlike the non-alcoholic beverage market, there is little room for alcoholic drinks to be tailored to the nutritional needs of men or women. The market often targets different gender groups using stereotypical approaches, however, the breakdown of traditional gender roles has provided manufacturers with the opportunity to think outside of the box and target traditionally gendered alcoholic beverages at the opposite sex.

According to Canadean, there is significant potential for brands to increase the size of categories which are usually associated with one gender. For example, women consume 33.9% of all whiskey, 36.3% of all vodka, and 37.0% of all lager; however the level of female consumption in these categories is often limited as beverages, such as whiskey and vodka, are usually associated with being masculine rather than feminine. To counter this, manufacturers will need to focus on brand positioning, advertising and marketing activities, as well as consumer education.

At the same time brands should also encourage men to enjoy categories traditionally seen as feminine. According to Canadean, men are more likely than women to look for a drink that consciously targets their gender, however in categories that are viewed as inherently feminine, such as sparkling wines, where men drink 42.1% of the market volume, and low-alcohol beer and lager, where men drink 49.0% of all volume, growth can be achieved by encouraging more male consumption.

As the stigma surrounding seemingly unnecessarily gendered products grows, brands will have to establish the positioning of new gendered products, and this will be critical. According to Canadean, using subtle cues to attract specific gender groups will prove more successful than brands using obvious gender statements. While products that are associated with masculine and feminine traditions will continue, there are opportunities for brands that break the mould and target a non-traditional gender. This is especially the case for women, where attempts to reach them are often built on poor stereotypes, and as a result fail to establish a connection between the product and the intended consumer.


Read the full report: 'TrendSights Analysis: Gender Specificity: Rethinking how to target gender in FMCG markets'