NEW YORK: Alcoholic drinks manufacturers are exploiting novel flavours as a way of attracting new consumers to everything from beers to spirits, but marketers should also be aware of distinct age, gender and regional preferences in this regard.

Market researcher Nielsen observed how it now tracked 80 pumpkin-flavoured beers in the US market, compared to two a generation ago. It also noted the growth in the "avant garde" as suppliers veered away from the mainstream of vanilla and lemon to explore flavours such as peanut butter and jelly, salmon and marshmallow.

And in some segments, flavoured sales account for a significant proportion of the total – around 20% in vodka and 12% in whiskey.

In a recent online English-language survey, Nielsen found that women were much more likely than men to enjoy flavoured alcoholic beverages. Just 27% said they didn't like such drinks, compared to 42% of men.

And when it drilled deeper into their flavour preferences, it discovered that men and women had very different favourites, with two of each group's top five flavours not on the other's list.

Thus, men who liked flavours put apple as their number one choice, cited by 31%. Then came strawberry (27%), cherry (24%), lemon (25%) and lime (24%).

Women, however, had little time for cherry or lemon. They overwhelmingly favoured strawberry (40%) followed by tropical (28%), raspberry (25%), lime (23%) and apple (22%).

Beyond these flavours, Nielsen also reported that men were more likely to prefer grapefruit and cinnamon than women, while women liked blueberry more than men.

Age was shown to be a related significant factor, as only 8% of women aged 21 to 35 said they disliked flavoured alcohol beverages, compared to 72% of men over 65.

Finally, Nielsen pointed to some regional differences, such as strawberry being the number one flavour in the Northeast, South and West, but second to apple in the Midwest.

Within the four regions, cranberry appeared as a top five choice only in the South, and lemon as a top five pick only in the West.

"Understanding your consumers' taste preferences across a number of dimensions is critical, given the cost of new product introduction and the value of store shelf space," Nielsen said.

Data sourced from Nielsen; additional content by Warc staff