Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Beer, the healthy way

I have to say I’m not a huge fan of beer, however, while on holiday there I found myself drinking it quite a bit (along with some lovely vino tinto and tinto de verano). Back in sunny Scotland though, it’s something I wouldn’t really think if drinking. If I’m looking for a longer drink I would be more likely to go for a cider, and since Magners introduced the notion of enjoying a cool cider over ice, I’m certainly not the only one in the UK. But enough about me and my susceptibility to marketing messages.

There are a number of women in the UK who do drink beer. In fact, the percentage of women drinking the beverage is roughly equal to the number of men here drinking it – 40%. The same can also be found in Spain (where I was on holiday funnily enough). But it’s certainly not the case in all of Europe however, particularly in Germany, where women find drinking beer to be unhealthy, fattening and unsophisticated. I would imagine that for those women in the UK, and perhaps also in Spain who also refrain from drinking it, the same complaints may be made. But then, all three complaints could also be leveraged at alcopops for example, but they still seem to have a great number of women drinking them (I’m not one of them). Yet the reason for drinking in the UK is often not to be sociable, but simply to get drunk and in that case the health properties of what is being drunk is of little importance. But that’s another topic for another day.

Still, for many drinking alcohol is not confined to binge-drinking sessions, but is instead something to be enjoyed on a regular basis, i.e. a drink with dinner, a few drink before bed, etc. And over recent years as concerns over healthy living have grown, they have also extended to alcohol with numerous studies looking into the health benefits of different alcoholic beverages when taken in moderation. Where women are concerned there has been much talk of the health benefits of wine, but not so for beer. Therefore, for those women who may be looking for an alcoholic beverage that will compliment their healthy lifestyle, wine has looked to be the best option. Until now. At least that’ what Karlsberg (the German brewer, not the Danish ‘Carlsberg’) would have us believe.

With their new beer for women,
Karla, the firm are trying to change perceptions of beer and market it not as a regular alcoholic drink, but instead as a health drink. The stress is on the fact that beer is a natural product, and the beverage is low in alcohol (only 1%), containing a mix of beer and fruit juices. Even the names of the products reflect the healthy image the company are trying to project – Karla Balance, Karla Well-Be and Karla Acti-Fit.

But it’s more than simply their names that align the drink to the health market. Karla Balance mixes hops with lemon balm, known for its sedative properties – hence the claim that it provides ‘peace and balance’. Well-Be, which funnily enough is being pitched as a drink to aid harmony through physical and mental well-being, contains such ingredients as soy-derived lecithin, which may affect cholesterol levels positively, and folic acid, recommended for women considering pregnancy. And Acti-Fit is said to help strengthen the body’s defences through its ingredients including Echinacea, Green tea and Vitamin C. In addition, they all contain a number of other vitamins to aid health.

What’s more, instead of selling the beverage in off licenses, Karla took the unusual decision to distribute the drink through pharmacists. This not only enhances its credibility as a healthy drink, but also brings the beer to a completely different audience than its traditional counterpart.

At the moment the drink is only available in Germany and to-date the distribution has not been nationwide. However, the German pharmaceutical manufacturer
Amapharm has now teamed up with Karlsberg to distribute the beer to pharmacists across Germany and international expansion is ‘in the works’ for the future.

I found the product and the ethos behind it very intriguing. I’m unsure how much of a hit it will be, especially across the whole of Germany given opinion there, but the branding seems to be far removed from other types of beer and so focused on the health aspect that it may be almost forgotten that it is beer. And the choice of pharmacists as a distributor seems on one hand ludicrous, but on the other hand ingenious.

I’m not altogether familiar with the nitty-gritty of the legislation in the UK regarding the sale of alcoholic beverages and wonder if it would be possible in this country without a license being obtained, but the low percentage contained in each drink may mean this is not so much of an issue. I’ll be interested to see whether the product does make it to the UK and if so, how exactly it will be marketed here and what distribution channels might be utilised. It has the potential to be a big hit with health-conscious women and also women who already drink beer for its taste and refreshment I would think. However, I feel that, especially in the UK, limiting the distribution to only pharmacists would be a mistake and undoubtedly health stores should also be included in the mix as well as more specialised food markets at least, perhaps larger supermarkets in addition. But time will tell.

It’s not really been a ‘why to love marketing’ post, but if you’re looking for a reason within all that – finding out why women did not want to drink beer allowed Karlsberg to go back and produce a new product which is in a category of its own. For the health conscious, Karla allows the drinker to enjoy an alcoholic beverage without any pangs of guilt. It may not be a reason for everyone, but that’s what niche marketing is all about and as we all know, you can’t please everybody!

Apologies, but could only find the links in German!

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At 7:46 AM, Blogger Karla said...

Well for me is such a big surprise this beer, because my name is Karla and my married last name is Beer... so you can imagine my face when I knew !!!!!


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