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Companies are marketing beverages along gender lines

In our formative years, we willingly separated ourselves. Boys sat on one side of the lunch room, girls on the other. Never shall the two meet. (Until puberty kicked in, and then all bets were off.)

Lately, the grocery store has begun to resemble this elementary school seating chart, with boy drinks on one side of the beverage aisle, girly drinks on the other.

"There is definitely a trend in the beverage industry, with specific genders being marketed for specific drinks," said Gary Hemphill, managing director for the Beverage Marketing Corporation.

The days of gender-neutral soda, beer and water are becoming a thing of the past (if they ever existed at all). We have diet soda marketed to men, fruit-flavored beers for the ladies and a variety of options in between. While this may not be an altogether new trend, it has been happening more readily in recent years.

"Consumers are more aware that there are more beverages on the market now than ever before, and that they have choices," Hemphill said. "Beverage companies are trying to broaden their demographics and appeal to new audiences. It's happening in both cases, the male and female demographics."

Fruity flavors for females

Long-neck bottles have traditionally been identified with men, but many beer companies are aiming to put their drinks into the hands of women. Introducing fruit-flavored beers to the market is one strategy several beer manufacturers are undertaking to lure in female drinkers.

Michelob brand recently introduced the Michelob Ultra Fruit Infused beer line. The pilsner-style beer are available in flavors like Pomegranate Raspberry and Tuscan Orange Grapefruit. De Boomgaard has also introduced a line of fruit beers, and Intensitea, a new hard tea brand, offers a softer tasting adult beverage.

It's not just the barley-and-hops bottlers looking to cash in on the double-X chromosome. Cocktails by Jenn, a line of flavored vodka tonics that can be mixed or taken straight, is looking to gals as big buyers. With brightly colored packaging, charm bracelet accessories and ultra-cute retail displays, these cocktails have Girl Power written all over them.

"Absolutely, the adult beverage industry is branching out to incorporate women. Women have, historically, loved to shop, and they are being seen as a viable buyer for these type of drinks," said Lori Logan, marketing manager for Barton Brands, Cocktails by Jenn's parent company. "The overarching trend is that women want convenience and quality, and that want something to pamper themselves a little. We are aiming to provide that."

Diet drinks for dudes

In an interesting turn of the tables, soda manufacturers are starting to zero in on male consumers for their diet drinks, not females, as has been the standard. Let it be noted, though, that men do not drink diet drinks - they drink zero-calorie beverages.

"There is a lot of truth to this theory," Hemphill said. "Traditionally, it has been women who drink diet and light drinks. But the beverage market is very competitive and companies take any opportunity to expand a brand and grow in consumers."

Coke Zero, for example, is the Coca-Cola brand's "male version" of Diet Coke. The Zero brands feature a bottle that is darker and sleeker, which is intended to appeal to guys more than the feminine Diet Coke bottle.

"We found that guys wanted a diet drink that still tastes like Coke, and Coke Zero gives them that," said Susan Stribling, the North American spokeswoman for Coca-Cola. "Even the commercials are more geared to guys. With Diet Coke commercials, they have a lighter, more bubbly feel, but the Coke Zero commercials have more humor to hit guys' funny bones."

Coca-Cola has also added sugar-free versions of Full Throttle energy drink, which features a black can with flames on the label, and Vault energy soda, sold in a bright green bottle with dark lettering, to their list of no-calorie drinks, targeted at the testosterone-driven audience.

"I mean, the slogan for Full Throttle is 'Let your man out.' You can't get more male-marketed than that," Stribling said. "We found a need, that guys wanted a healthier choice, but the same taste of their favorite products."

Health above all

The largest trend to hit the beverage industry has little to do with the sexes, and everything to do with health and well-being.

"Consumers, both male and female, want a drink that is good for them," Hemphill said. "They are more savvy about what they are buying and putting into their bodies."

To this end, the world of energy drinks and bottled water market to both genders. Waters have expanded beyond spring and mountain varieties, to include fruit-flavored, vitamin-stocked and energy-inducing waters, which are meant to appeal across the board.

Energy drinks available in a sugar-free version, such as Tab Energy drink and Red Bull, are intended for women. The recently introduced Enviga, a green-tea drink laced with caffeine to boost energy and aid dieters by burning calories, also aims to cross gender barriers.

"For many consumers, they just want to drink what they want to drink, and are not concerned by the image," Hemphill said. "They are aware of how their drinks are marketed, and consumers have changed. They don't feel as locked into the gender stereotypes. They just want a good product."

Drinks by Gender

These days, more alcoholic beverages are being marketed to women, while men are growing consumers in the diet-drink world. Here's a breakdown of items we've found on store shelves and who they are meant to target.

•Gal pals: Bright, feminine packaging, lighter calories and fruity flavors are key signals that a drink is made for the ladies.

For example: Cocktails by Jenn, Michelob Ultra fruit flavors, De Boomgaard fruit beers, Smirnoff Ice Raw Tea, Tab Energy drink, Sobe Essential energy, Gatorade Rain

•Guy guzzlers: Male-marketed drinks typically feature darker bottling, macho emblems and to-the-point packaging.

For example: Coke Zero, Coke Blak, Vault Zero, Ray's Station Macho Merlot wine, Gatorade Fierce, No Fear energy drink, Monster energy drink, Glacial Icelandic bottled water, Propel Vitamin Enhanced water packs