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women’s health update

You are what you drink women, identity and alcohol

Spirit –based drinks play a leading role in the marketing of alcohol to younger women. Sales have grown over 400% since 1996

Enter almost any liquor store and you are greeted with a wall of bright and shiny bottles, beckoning like candy. These RTDs (ready to drinks) or alcopops are the sweet sisters of their hard sprit brothers. These diminutive bottles are brightly decorated and ready to take on the road. The sheer range of alternatives tempts you to try them all.

They are aimed at younger women and seem to be working. Younger women’s alcohol consumption is increasing steadily. Recent statistics indicate an overall rise in binge drinking in women across all age groups but this is particularly apparent in younger women. A 2004 study of changing drinking behaviour in Auckland found that ‘from 1995 to 2003, binge, “risky” and “problematic” drinking had significantly increased in 16- 24 year females but not males’1 RTDs (ready to drinks) are alcohol designed to not taste like alcohol. They generally come in sweet flavours and are overtly packaged to mimic soft drinks.

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They are a ‘starter’ drink, to get new consumers or consumers who do not like the taste of alcohol to start drinking. RTDs arrived on the New Zealand market in early 1990s with significant growth in the late 90s. Spirit-based drinks represented a mere 3% share of the alcoholic beverages available in 1996 and have grown over 400% to nearly 12% of the market today2. These trends correspond with the increasing consumption of alcohol and binge drinking by women and particularly younger women. RTDs are widely recognised as being one of the largest segments of the alcohol market directed at women but is certainly not the only one. Wine, has long been positioned as ‘feminine’ drink, as was sherry sometime earlier. Beer companies have diversified to appeal to a more female audience in niche beers with a variety of flavours and new packaging. continued on page 2

Women’s Health Update features women’s health news, policy and scientific findings, to enable health care professionals and community-based workers to be at the forefront in women’s health. Women’s Health Update is published by the Women’s Health Action Trust

WHU - Vol.10 / No.2 / July 2008  
WHU - Vol.10 / No.2 / July 2008