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By Donald Snyder, partner at accounting firm Green Hasson Janks
This article is the second in a series on the Green Hasson Janks white paper “Women in the Food and Beverage Industry,” which examines the results of the firm’s annual survey of West Coast food and beverage executives.
Women consumers have real marketplace power. As family shoppers, they have always had a major role, but women have increasingly driven a sea change in the types of products being offered, especially in the health-conscious arena.
As part of the 2015 Green Hasson Janks Food and Beverage Survey, we interviewed industry expert Sabrina Merage, who is a principal at Echo Capital Group, a leading food and beverage private equity firm. Merage feels that “women and moms are still the household shoppers, but there has been a shift. Women have the dollars now and families are more dynamic — in short, women have power.”
Another expert contributor was Nicole Fry, managing partner at First Beverage Group. Through its investment bank and private equity fund, the firm helps beverage companies grow and stand out in a dynamic and competitive industry. Fry says that “increasingly, women consumers are asking the questions about ingredients and how they are made — women are driving that movement. Over time, lower fat and calories has given way to low sugar, natural/organic, fair trade and non-GMO.”
Major grocery chains are introducing profitable lines of organic foods, and former niche products are emerging as major sellers. Merage says that “women consumers are leading trends like healthy foods, organic, non-GMO, fast casual restaurants and healthy products like kombucha. As women who consume the products, they think about their motivations.”
When asked what product features appealed most to health-conscious consumers, a whopping 82.9 percent of survey responses cited organic/natural, with non-GMO and low sugar following.
To appeal to these health-conscious consumers, industry brands are continuing to focus on traditional sales and marketing methods, with 47.8 percent of survey respondents citing marketing and packaging as their top choices. Fry adds that “in the beverage market, gender focus can be broken down by channel. For example, convenience store buyers tend to be male, so the packaging skews that way; craft beer consumers tend to be male (cans vs. bottles); store-in-stores like a yoga studio health bar tend to have female consumers.”
Women consumers are also willing to pay more for the right products. A majority of survey responses cited women breadwinners as the most likely consumers to choose higher-priced products. Other significant answers included mothers and married women.
In the survey, we found that women consumers drive trends and growth. We also found that women are already having a profound effect on how the food and beverage industry develops and markets products. Building upon the power of women consumers, it makes sense for industry owners, venture capitalists and boards to ultimately reward this perspective in the industry’s leadership ranks where women hold a disproportionately small number of roles. For more information on women as leaders in the food and beverage industry, please see the first installment in this series.