Steak. Yogurt. Beer. Chocolate. Many products have gender associations, for one reason or another. Entire industries have exploited these gender-based links, making them even more distinct and notable. But when it comes time to expand their target markets, companies need to overcome these traditional preferences, such as by developing new flavors to help men enjoy “women’s” products, without worrying about their masculinity.
Consider the U.S. chocolate market: Worth $17.5 billion, it attracts everyone, such that 90 percent of U.S. women and 82 percent of men buy chocolate. Yet even when men buy, it often is for the women in their lives, so market research shows that women are the main chocolate consumers. Many candy companies, including Hershey’s and Mars, thus target women with Bliss and Dove product lines that position the candy as a luxurious treat.
In contrast, there’s nothing that seems very blissful about the stark, salty flavors in the “Smoke and Stout Caramel bar,” a high-end chocolate by Vosges that mixes in a dark-roasted malt beer. Vosges’s Chocolate Bacon Bar has been a popular seller for years, with applewood bacon and alderwood smoked salt. Not to be outdone, the Dean & Deluca grocery chain sells India Pale Ale Caramels; Annette’s Chocolate Factory promises a fiery Beer Brittle with cayenne pepper. Lillie Belle Farms taunts consumers with its name, “Do Not Eat This Chocolate,” because it contains hot chili, arbol, and ghost peppers.
Of course, gender-based assumptions often are not quite accurate. There are men who enjoy a smooth, subtle milk chocolate like Dove. And there are plenty of women whose endorphins rush when they bite down on a spicy chocolate bar. The goal for companies is to find ways to appeal to them both!
- Is it beneficial for chocolate companies to market to men to encourage them to consume more chocolate?
- What other traditionally gender-linked foods might benefit from a similar strategy?
Source: Katy McLaughlin, “Hoppy Holidays: Sweet Makers Try to Tap Market for Beer Candy,” The Wall Street Journal, December 16, 2011.
Blair Ginden said:
Gender associations with food are very common, and probably actually beneficial for companies. No matter how much people may deny it, everyone wants to fit into a specific mold they think they belong in. When out to dinner a “man” orders a steak or a burger. Vegetables aren’t his main focus. He is a man, therefore, he needs meat, because somehow, this shows how masculine he is. If a chocolate can be percieved as a “manly” food, this type of guy would be much more likely to buy it for himself, as well as women looking to purchase candy for a man for a holiday such as Valentine’s day. There is no better way to shoot down a man’s confidence then to give him a heart shaped box of chocolates for Valentine’s day. If there was a more “manly” optino, I think a lot of women would go for this, because really, everyone loves getting chocolates. Other foods that could benefit from this kind of strategy are ones that men generally shy away from, such as salads, soups, diet foods such as Special K or Fiber One brand products, and yogurts like Chobani and Activa. These foods usually use women in their commercials, although men would probably enjoy the products as well. Burgers and burritos are considered not “lady-like” because they are so messy, so women should not order them in a resturaunt. Women are “supposed” to enjoy dainty food such as salads. If foods that are usually considered manly were marketed towards women, they probably would be much more successful in that market segment.
Rebekah M. said:
This is really interesting that there are chocolate bars marketed towards men that are spicy or have beer in them. There should be a way to get rid of the stereotypes that men don’t eat smooth chocolate or that women can’t eat spicy chocolate. Perhaps if there was more social media or advertising surrounding men enjoying a plain milk chocolate bar or a truffle, then the chocolate industry could expand its target market. But, before the stereotypes are gone, it is beneficial for chocolate companies to market chocolate to men to help boost chocolate sales. Another gender-linked food which might benefit from a similar strategy is steak. The steak market is typically geared towards men; however, this could change if companies started making petite steaks geared towards women.
Interesting how Vosges went about this related diversification strategy. Changing up the taste of the chocolate is one avenue that can be taken in order to make this food appeal to men, however I do not believe it will be effective alone. I for example, personally am not more likely to buy a “salty chocolate bar” as compared to a milk chocolate bar. Instead, I would be more focused on the functionality, size, and branding of the chocolate. Most of the “delicacy” type chocolate companies currently focus on making rich and heavy chocolate that should “satisfy” your appetite after eating one to two of these chocolates. I believe these delicacy type chocolate companies could attract more business from men if they serve lighter and smaller portions of chocolate that men could be able to snack on. This could be a new type of product development for the industry.