How Retailers Can Support Women-Owned Drinks Brands
Women are creating some of the most innovative beverage alcohol products across all categories. Here’s how retailers can support them
As International Women’s Day approaches on March 8th, support the women pushing the boundaries of flavor and bringing more equity and diversity into the drinks industry. From trailblazers in the rapidly growing ready-to-drink (RTD) category, to distillers highlighting local terroirs, and brewers supporting racial justice initiatives, this pioneering sector of the industry is more innovative and accessible than ever.
Not only are the products crafted by this group exceptionally high quality, but their stories and ethos align with increasingly prevalent consumer attitudes toward brand values. BevAlc Insights predicted that consumer consciousness for brand values would be increasingly important in 2021 after somewhat of an end to corporate neutrality in 2020. This was reflected in purchasing data; in 2020, McBride Sisters — a Black-owned, women-owned winery — became the second-fastest growing wine brand on the Drizly platform.
“There are so few women-owned brands,” explains Jill Burns, the co-founder of RTD powerhouse Austin Cocktails. “At a time when women are bowing out of the workforce in record numbers, it is easy to be part of the change we want to see by seeking out women-owned brands and supporting them with buying power. This truly moves the needle.”
While the pandemic has had a huge impact on women in the workplace, the challenges for women-owned businesses were already rampant pre-Covid. According to data from the 2019 American Express State of Women-Owned Businesses report, while women-owned businesses make up 42 percent of American firms, a mere 4 percent have revenue over $1 million — a drop in the proverbial bucket, considering many established drinks brands have promotional budgets alone that exceed the $1 million mark.
According to Burns, simple steps, such as dedicating time to meeting with small, women-led producers and seeking out female entrepreneurs, would bring more parity to the industry. At the same time, promoting unique products from women-led brands offers curious drinkers an opportunity to expand beyond their everyday drink of choice.
In addition to adding women-owned brands to inventory on online platforms like Drizly, retailers can also see benefits by highlighting these brands on their own websites and social media, or by showcasing products from women-owned brands in traditional promotional formats. In addition to training staff and hosting in-store tastings, Burns believes traditional promotions — such as end-caps and shelf talkers — can have a huge impact when it comes to selling products from women-owned brands.
Jill Kuehler, the founder and CEO of Portland, Ore.’s Freeland Spirits agrees. “I think a ‘yes and’ approach is really best,” she says. “Of course I want to see my gin and bourbon on the shelf with bigger brands, but a simple display that highlights women, the BIPOC community, and other smaller brands would really help.”
Small steps of support from retailers can add huge value to these brands. “Our story is super critical to who we are,” says Kuehler. “Any time we can get a retailer to let us do staff education that is the absolute best. Then others can share that story with their customers on the day-to-day.”
The list below highlights some of the women-owned drinks brands currently available on Drizly; at BevAlc Insights, we encourage more retailers to carry and promote drinks brands owned by women — not just for Women’s History Month but all year round.
21 Seeds Tequila
Run by a trio of women, 21 Seeds Tequila is taking center stage with their fresh, natural, infused tequilas. In their quest to craft the perfect tequilas for sipping while giving job opportunities to women, their Mexico-based partner distillery is owned and predominantly staffed by women.
Located in Vermont, The Alchemist is behind some of America’s most sought-after, specialty beers, including the legendary Heady Topper. Since 2003, leaders Jen and John Kimmich have been crafting unique, hop-centric beers, which has cultivated an increasingly devoted following for this brewery. A certified B Corp, The Alchemist is also committed to dismantling systemic racism through workplace practices, public policy advocacy, and more.
The powerhouse women behind Austin Cocktails are making it effortless to enjoy a full-strength, craft cocktail without any mixing. Made without any syrups or high-calorie sweeteners, and available in cans and large format bottles, RTD brand Austin Cocktails brings the cocktail bar experience anywhere.
With the proud slogan “made by chicks,” Bev packs slightly fizzy, deliciously easy-drinking, California wines into go-anywhere cans. Helmed by an all-women team, Bev is grounded in the principle that real, progressive change comes to fruition when men and women work together as equals to reframe the narrative around both women in the industry and women consumers.
Since 2009, Merilee Kick’s Buzzballz has been producing premium RTD cocktails in over 15 flavors — some wine-based, some spirit-based — and unmistakable spherical packaging. Bottled in recyclable packaging designed to break down in both recycling plants and traditional landfills, Buzzballz appeals to climate-conscious consumers looking for a premium RTD cocktail.
Fishers Island Lemonade
Since its 2014 founding by Bronya Shillo, Fishers Island Lemonade has been reimagining the spiked lemonade category. Made with all-natural citrus juices and premium spirits, this easy-drinking RTD cocktail has quickly become a summer favorite; it was one of the fastest growing canned beverages on Drizly in 2020.
Kuehler, whose background in agriculture led her to craft distilling in Oregon, was inspired to create Freeland Spirits by both the pioneering women in her family and the terroir behind craft spirits. All of Freeland’s offerings are twists on mainstream classics like gin and bourbon using local ingredients. With women and craft at the forefront — and women running the operation from growing grain to operating stills — this distillery is showing off the delicious potential of the Pacific Northwest.
Lamplighter Brewing Co.
Based in Cambridge, Mass., Lamplighter Brewing Co. is an avant-garde brewery that embraces the forward-thinking and experimental vibes of its zip code, with a focus on great craft beer and innovation. Led by Cayla Marvil, the Lamplighter team has been putting out high-quality beers and supporting social justice initiatives across the Boston area since 2016.
The largest Black-owned wine company in the U.S., McBride Sisters is breaking down barriers and crafting delicious wines at the same time. Since 2005, Andréa and Robin — sisters raised separately in California and New Zealand — have been producing impeccable, affordable wines with flair. Their wine collections span their home countries, from the Central Coast to Marlborough, and they also dip a toe into the canned wine category with the SHE CAN dry rosé spritzers.
Founded and led by Fawn Weaver, the first Black woman to run a major whiskey brand, Uncle Nearest Whiskey is the fastest-growing independent, premium American whiskey brand in the U.S. Top-notch sourcing and careful aging of Tennessee whiskies, all filtered through sugar maple charcoal, have made Uncle Nearest beloved by American whiskey lovers.