Monday, August 22, 2011

Storz-ette "The Original Beer for Women"

   In the early 1950s, the Storz Brewing Company of Omaha, Nebraska, which had been brewing beer for much of the western United States since the late 19th Century, decided its biggest potential growth market was women. Women were traditionally not big beer drinkers, many saying that the swill was too bitter and too fattening, and Storz advertising and packaging was decidedly on the masculine side. Tobacco companies had successfully convinced women in droves to smoke cigarettes in the previous couple of decades, a habit once deemed as strictly a male pleasure, so why not get them into the beer-drinking habit with a brew marketed especially for them.

   In 1953-54, Storz-ette was test marketed in San Diego, California. Looking at the way it was sold, one gets the impression that the whole thing was concocted by some male "mad men" making assumptions of what appealed to women with little input from actual women, except maybe passing comments from their wives.

   Storz-ette was sold in just one type of package, 8-ounce "queen size" cans that were a little smaller than the standard 12-ounce beer can. The reason behind the smaller cans was because "women have felt standard sizes too large for a serving," according to a company representative quoted in the trade magazine Modern Packaging from December 1953.

   These petite beer cans featured a pink orchid lithographed on the label and on the lid (which was a plain flat lid that had to be opened with a special punch-type opener, before the advent of the tab-top), a pattern of small orange dots over a clean-looking white background, the name "Storz-ette" in green script, and the slogan "The original beer for women." The beer also claimed to be "calorie controlled," although light beer as we know it today hadn't yet been invented, and that it was less bitter than regular beer, most likely achieved with more water and less hops. The overall can design was very fifties-fashionable.

   The 8-ounce "queen size" cans came in a 4-can "Princess Pak" paperboard carton that had a similar design plus a printed red ribbon going around it so it looked like a gift. The "Princess Paks" were jumble displayed in small shopping carts in stores, with attached full-color placards featuring gossipy-looking ladies saying "It's NEW and strictly for the GIRLS."

   Storz also merchandised for women drinkers small packets of flat sheets of tissue that could be used to wipe off some of the layers of lipstick that fifties ladies wore so thickly, before they sank their lips into a beer glass (and left a disgusting greasy imprint that would be difficult to wash off).

   Storz-ette proved to be a bomb and according to sources, the one San Diego-based Storz distributor that handled the product dumped the remaining stock into the ocean. The Storz Brewing Company would eventually merge with Minneapolis-based Grain Belt Breweries, Inc. in 1967, and the Omaha brewery would finally close for good in 1972.


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