Ale buyer Jack Rutherford believes innovative new styles are attracting more women to the category.
He told OLN: “In the past 12 months at Sainsbury’s we have attracted 95,000 incremental female customers into the premium bottled ale category. That’s wonderful.
“The market is growing so there’s some organic growth anyway, but I think it’s to do with the new styles of beer.
“Golden ale will be helping. So will innovation in things like ginger.
“It’s great to have more women buying the beer. We don’t know if they are drinking it – without hiding in their gardens there’s no real way to know.”
Rutherford added that Sainsbury’s is outgrowing the market when it comes to premium bottled ale sales and that while it has a 17% share of the grocery market its share of bottled ale stands out 20.6% in the past year.
He said: “We have re-laid all our space and we give more space to premium bottled ales now. We used to just have beer and cider but now we have split it to lager, cider and ale.”
Last week Batemans B Bock beat hundreds of new beers brewed across the UK to win a listing at Sainsbury’s after it was named winner of the retailer’s Great British Beer Hunt 2013.
Winners of the regional heats, from Devon to the Orkney Islands, gathered at London’s Oxo Tower to hear the results.
Thwaites in Lancashire has created a microbrewery within its brewery to whip up experimental brews, and its Craft Dan – named by staff in honour of brewery founder Daniel Thwaites – finished runner-up.
But the big winner was Batemans, which scooped the top prize for the second year in a row after its Mocha won the 2012 event.
Jaclyn Bateman said: “To win again is amazing. We know what winning the last one did and how much it helped us grow.”
Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King called ale a “vibrant and growing industry” and pledged to support British brewers.
He said: “What the country needs is a lot more people turning raw material into fantastic produce.
“We over-trade in bottled beer – we have a 17% food share and we are a little bit north of 20% in bottled ales. We punch above our weight and our shoppers are interested in artisan producers and there’s a real demand for artisan products.”
One of the judges, Frances Brace, said: “The competition highlights what a lot is going on in brewing and retailing, and the amount of effort being put into beer by buyers. The fact that Justin King attended the event signifies the importance of the ale category to supermarkets in general and Sainsburys in particular."
She added: "The announcement that 100,000 more women bought beer during the last year was extremely interesting. The research that now needs to take place who is actually drinking it.”
Rutherford said there will be no Great British Beer Hunt in 2014, giving the retailer a chance to work with the brewers that entered and overhaul its range, and that the competition will return in 2015.