Have it your way – flavours get personal

As brand owners cater to more niche consumer groups and sectors such as men’s grooming within beauty continue to grow, gender specificity could move into unlikely industries. In sectors such as fine fragrances, this type of segmentation is already standard. Floral and fruit fragrances are typically marketed to female clientele, whilst scents such as oud are targeted at men.

But what about less chartered territories such as flavours? Is there growth potential for gendered flavours for food and drink? With the global food/beverage flavours market expected to grow nearly 2.5% between 2010 and 2015, this niche segment is worth exploring.

Sex sells

Though gender specificity is more pronounced in areas such as beauty, experimentation around gender has been limited within food and drink. In soft drinks, Coca Cola’s Diet Coke and Coke Zero are two well-known examples that have been specifically targeted to women and men, respectively. Yet, these are similar products being marketed to the different genders rather than unique formulations specifically designed for male or female consumers.

Therefore, the food and soft drinks players which are currently creating and positioning products to suit a specific gender are the front runners of a trend which is occurring simultaneously across very different markets.

In Brazil, PepsiCo recently launched Ruffles “Your way,” chips/crisps with a barbecue flavour for men and a cream cheese flavour for women. In Japan, a range of ginger and yuzu flavoured bottled waters placed in ‘feminine’ packaging have been launched for female customers. With soft drinks accounting for nearly 32% of the global food/beverage flavours market, it is no surprise that these players are testing the waters here first.

Females, flavours and functionality

Of course, with health and wellness as a driving force for the food and drinks industries, there is ample opportunity for brand owners to incorporate not only gender-specific flavours but also those that evoke gender-specific nutritional requirements and functionality. Soy flavours, which can be marketed as both feminine and functional because of soy’s links to breast cancer prevention and relief of menopause are a good example.

Flavours of fruits well-known for their antioxidant properties such as blueberries can also be targeted at beauty-conscious female consumers. Japan’s Sapporo recently launched its yuzu flavoured Bi (beauty) soda which not only contains dietary fibre and collagen, but is flavoured with yuzu, a fruit which is renowned for its links to skin health.

More gender-specific flavours could be targeted at the health and wellness beverage sectors expected to see the most growth – RTD coffee and tea, which are forecast to grow 50% and 5% respectively between 2009 and 2014.

Transcending gender

Of course, the success of gender-specific flavours could very much depend on the strength of gender roles in a given market, as these specialised products are much more likely to take off in regions where male and female roles are still clearly defined. However, as more women join the workforce in emerging markets and are free to spend their disposable incomes as they choose, these specialised products might be exactly what they desire.

Of course, players will need to take a nuanced approach which addresses gender differences in a subtle and tasteful way that does not offend or alienate any specific consumer groups. The trick will be creating the appropriate brand image and accompanying it with a high-impact marketing and educational campaign.

Either way, this blossoming trend highlights the need for flavour and fragrance houses to take a closer look at further consumer segmentation. Undoubtedly, there are also opportunities beyond gender, with other niche consumer groups distinguished by age or lifestyle. Kraft recently launched a new liquid water flavouring product, MiO, which means ‘mine’ in Italian, for the 18-39 year-old ‘Generation Next.’ By identifying and targeting some of these niche consumers, flavour and fragrance houses can build a brand image around a range of flavours that suit a large yet diverse consumer base.