Millennial Wave Hits Wine

Those of us in higher education were among the first to notice Millennials were different from other generations. Then it was politicians. Now managers, recruiters and HR professionals are scrambling to adjust. What’s next? Most likely food and wine marketers.

Millennials are discovering wine in record numbers. Domestic wine volume increased 11% between 2003 and 2007, and imported wine volume increased 27%. According to the Wine Council, Millennials accounted for 46% of the growth (see chart). Savvy wine marketers are aware of the sea change and, excuse my torture of the metaphor, are preparing for what is shaping up to be a tsunami of wine drinking.

Those reading along with me over the past year, already know that Millennials’ love of wine is unique to the U.S. – in fact, French Millennials are forgoing wine. You will also know that it is part of a larger affinity for gourmet, premium and imported food and drink in general.

But what do we know about Millennial wine drinkers, and especially about enthusiasts that can help wine marketers?

First, wine drinking appears to start in earnest as Millennials graduate from college and start careers. Incidence of wine drinking increases from 23% among 21-24 year olds to 32% among 25-34 year olds (Mintel), approximately the same as adults in general (35%). However, the wine preferences, attitudes and behavior of Millennials are quite different. They are more sophisticated in their preferences, and more willing to spend to indulgence their preferences.

* Millennials who drink wine are twice as likely to belong to a wine club (20%) and to drink at wine bars in the past three months (38%) than older groups, (Wine Council).

* Forty-one percent of Millennials who drink wine say they drink imported wine most often vs. only 24% of Boomers and 31% of Gen X’ers. For example 31% of Millennials have drunk a wine from NZ, compared to only 15% of Gen X’ers (Wine Council).

* Millennials are much more likely to purchase their wine at a winery (33%), specialty liquor store (40%) or gourmet food store (20%). (Mintel)

* Millennials say they spend about $10 more per bottle than average across a wide variety of wine buying occasions. For example, Millennials say they would spend $40 on a bottle of wine for a special occasion compared to just $24 for all adults. (Mintel)

* Forty percent of 25-34 year olds agree that more expensive wine tastes better compared to 31% of adults on average. (Mintel)

* Millennials’ criteria in wine selection tends to favor more familiar wines and wines with fun, casual names. (Mintel)

These facts don’t completely relate the sheer enthusiasm of young drinkers for wine. They see wine as part of their move into adult life. It is a passion that drives them to look for new ideas and authentic experiences. For example, here is a comment left by Therese on this blog:

Really enjoyed this. I’d have to say that especially as a millennial, drinking wine is also about the experience. This helps explain why I LOVE and other “millenniels” LOVE drinking imported wine. What better way to escape from stress than to sit outside with friends drinking a Spanish Rioja, eating tapas and discussing life’s little pleasures?

For wine marketers, the biggest adjustment will be learning work with younger drinkers’ high degree of connectedness. Millennials are naturally social. They share their interests in everything from music to philanthropy through social networks, and it looks as if wine will soon be getting the same treatment. Twitter tasting networks and Millennial wine blogs are appearing almost daily. I have already mentioned the Millennier and Just yesterday, Yvette launched her new blog, millennialtastelive, with this introduction and an invitation to all Millennials to share their love of food and wine.

While researching popular wine groups, I found they were heavily slanted toward the more mature wine consuming demographic, particularly the group Twitter Taste Live, now Taste Live! Wine is popular among Millennials for three reasons:
Wine is a social drink and Millennials are arguably the Social Generation
There is so much variety in wine and Millennials tend to be attracted to constant change: “What’s new?” “What’s hot?” and “What’s different?”
And simply: Wine tastes good! It is my hope that this blog and Twitter Feed helps 20 and 30 somethings connect with one another to share our common bond of love of wine and propensity for social networking for the pure FUN of it MINUS the snobby elitest crap.

Efforts to engage this group will need to go well beyond the traditional web site. They are looking for wine knowledge and experiences and ways of sharing them with their friends. Marketers will need to explore leveraging existing networks, such as the 45,000 member online group, Womenwine, or creating new ones. Millennials want social currency they can ‘spend’ – and savvy wine marketers will be there to provide it.