Wine Producers Waking Up to Millennial Target

I’ve written before about Millennials and their love affair with wine (“Millennial Wave Hits Wine” “Perfect Pairing: Social Media and Millennial Wine Enthusiasts”). Now it’s official.

According to a new report by the industry blog, WineandSpiritsDaily, Millennials are now the recommended prime target for wine marketers:

“The wine industry can take comfort in the fact that consumption continues to grow in the United States, said John Gillespie, president of the Wine Market Council, at the Council’s 5th Annual Presentation of US Wine Consumer Trends in Dallas. Not only are older generations drinking wine, but the industry has a big champion in the millennial generation. By process of being younger, millennials were not as hurt by the economy and feel more comfortable spending money on wine as an affordable luxury. They don’t view wine as elitist and enjoy, rather than feel intimidated by, all the choices that wine presents.” (“Millennials Drive Growth, Core Consumers Trade Down”, Wine and Spirits Daily).
While I am not so sure about the part about ‘not being as hurt by the economy’, the rest is absolutely true: Gen Y is turning to wine  for its sophistication, sense of community, and share ability. The overall conclusions were based on quantitative and focus group research for the Wine Market Council by Merrill Research. Based on the findings, Gillespie strongly urged producers to concentrate their marketing on the younger generation of wine drinkers. Here is his rationale.

1. MILLENNIALS ALREADY LOVE WINE AND THEIR NUMBERS ARE STILL GROWING. Right from the get go millennials have begun drinking wine at core consumption levels, while gen X and baby boomers have increased wine consumption with age.  20 million of the 70 million millennials aren’t even at legal drinking age yet.  “We have the pipeline full for core wine drinkers for the next 5 years, assuming the 20 million who aren’t 21 yet will follow in the older millennials’ footsteps” says Gillespie.

2. MILLENNIALS ARE TRADING BEER AND SPIRITS FOR WINE.  32% of millennials traded over to wine, which means young people are increasingly favoring wine over beer and spirits.  This compares to 9% who are trading off among the drinking population as a whole.
3. MILLENNIALS ARE MORE ADVENTUROUS. They consume more imports than other generations, are more likely to belong to a wine club, and dine out more often.
4. MILLENNIALS VIEW WINE AS AN AFFORDABLE LUXURY. Millennials view wine as an affordable luxury. They don’t see wine as elitist or unattainable but believe it denotes maturity and sophistication not given by beer or spirits. This age group is also the first truly gender neutral generation when it comes to drinking wine.

Wine producers have no time to waste. Many Millennials do not feel that marketers have spoken to their generation.

Megan Leap, a Millennial living in South Florida, says she loves wine, but has no particular brand affinity: “No specific wine brands. I’m budget conscious. 😉 I don’t think wine marketing is geared toward millennials. More 30+.”

While it’s true that Millennials are price sensitive, they also care about brands. According to Mintel, the % of 21-24 year olds who say they decide based on brand (55%) is higher than the number who say they decide by price (48%).

Brand names in wine may actually mean more to Millennials than they do to older wine drinkers. According to Mintel, 29% of 21-24 year olds and 31% of 25-34 year olds say “I prefer wines with casual and fun names such as Red Bicyclette, Three Blind Moose, compared to old-school names such as Bordeaux or Beaujolais.” This compares to just 18% for all adults. What’s more, Millennials may be more loyal to their preferred brands.  Millennials are much more likely than other adults to agree with the statement ‘I stick to (wine) brands I know’.

Reaching Millennials now could shape their wine preferences for a lifetime. So wine producers, what are you waiting for?

Photo from Daniel Prager,