How Can Women-Led Beverage Alcohol Companies Change the Industry?

Lizzy Connolly
September 26, 2023

The beverage alcohol industry might no longer be strictly viewed as a “boys’ club,” but there are a minority of women leading organizations in the space. However, the number of women-led wineries, breweries and distilleries is on the rise, which – as we’ll explain – is likely a very positive thing for the industry.

Let’s talk numbers

A 2020 Santa Clara University study found that just 14% of California wineries reported a woman as their lead winemaker. However, that is an increase from the 10% reporting the same in 2011. For beer, a 2021 Brewers Association study found that 23% of brewery owners were women and just 2% of all breweries were fully-woman owned.

High Proof Creative, a woman-owned marketing agency that caters to beverage companies, launched Women in Distilling to highlight women and marginalized people in distilling. According to their numbers, there are currently 183 woman-owned, -operated and -led distilleries on their Distilling Women map. Around 160 of those are located in the U.S., making up about 8% of the 2,063 active distilleries in the country.

Why do we need women in charge?

Women make great leaders – specifically, women-led S&P 500 companies significantly outperform businesses run by men. While 94% of the S&P 500 companies have a male CEO, research found that there is a 384% difference in returns from female-led companies over the past 10 years, compared to 261% from male led companies.

For the beverage alcohol industry, the average consumer is also changing. According to Rabobank, 2019 was the first time in the U.S. that the majority of alcohol consumers under 25 were women. Additionally, people of color represent 40% of the individuals under 25 who regularly use alcohol.

“Inviting people of different backgrounds, race, and gender to the table won’t just help companies speak to women and communities of color,” the Rabobank report states. “It can help refresh how they market to all audiences.”

Organizations pushing for greater diversity

There are numerous organizations working to lift up women in beverage alcohol for the benefit of all. Pink Boots Society® focuses on helping women and non-binary individuals in the fermented/alcoholic beverage industry. In addition to teaching seminar programs, the organization also raises money for educational scholarships for front-of-house and back-of-house industry careers.

“We are the women and non-binary individuals that own the companies, package the product, design the labels, serve the drinks, write about our industry – and just about everything in between,” according to the Pink Boots Society website.

Women of the Vine & Spirits (WOTVS) is a global organization hoping to help foster “a more diverse, equitable and inclusive era” in the beverage alcohol sector. With a focus on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) and Business Development & Innovation (BD&I) initiatives, WOTVS aims to create workplaces that are more diverse, equitable and safer for everyone.

A WOTVS study found that there is still lots of room for improvement in that regard, with just one in 10 women working in the beverage alcohol industry saying a significant positive change toward women overall in the last five years has occurred. The majority of respondents also said their company’s leadership team has an underrepresentation of women and people with diverse backgrounds.

As we’ve discussed here, greater equity and gender parity can be strong tools for creating businesses that are poised to succeed on every level. Customers are diverse, with ever-evolving tastes. A diverse leadership team is better poised to focus on how to best reach those consumers – whoever they may be. Beverage alcohol companies don’t have to necessarily change leadership overnight just for the sake of doing so, but they can perhaps take a closer look in how they market their products and what sort of offerings they have to get products to consumers.

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Lizzy Connolly

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