As I prepare to stock a brand new store, and a brand new wine section, the subject of “what the Millennials are drinking” is inherently important to me personally. It turns out to be an interesting topic as well.
In the United States, we have “turned a corner”, “hit a milestone” as Millennials, age 21 to 38, have suddenly become the largest demographic segment of the population at 79 million, while Generation Xer’s, age 39 to 50, born just after the pill became available, total 49 million, and Baby Boomers, age 51 to 69, total 75 million. Consumers older than the Baby Boomers total 31 million. Next on the horizon is the I Generation with 61 million, none of whom were of legal drinking age until this year.
While Millennials are the largest demographic, Baby Boomers remain the largest group of high frequency wine drinkers. In many other categories, the Millennials are rapidly overtaking the Baby Boomers. Millennials are rapidly gaining share, overtaking the Baby Boomers as occasional wine consumers. Among “high frequency wine drinkers,” those who drink several times per week, Millennials make up 30%, Baby Boomers 38% and Generation Xer’s 20%. High frequency Millennials drink 3.1 glasses per sitting, more than any other generation. Millennials consumed 159.6 million cases of wine in 2015, an average of 2 cases per person. These statistics will continue to shift toward the Millennials, as Baby Boomers age and drink less. In another demographic shift, 56% of all wine consumers are women, but among younger Millennials, age 21 to 29, 66% are women.
While Millennials will soon account for a dramatically larger portion of the overall wine consumption, they are already driving market segments of nontraditional red wine blends, sparkling wines, sweeter wines, a few types of imports, and anything new and different, including “blue wine.” They have been a driving force in the recent rise in consumption of the dry rosé wines we featured in this column in the last issue.
How are the Millennials different in buying patterns than the Baby Boomers? For a start, Millennials are not as easily influenced by wine critics and the 100 point system. They are not drinking the same wines as their parents. They are less interested in the more traditional wines of California, France and Italy, and prefer to explore wines from Washington State, Oregon, Chile, Argentina, Germany, Portugal and South Africa. Popular varietals include Malbec, Pinot Noir, Moscato and Sauvignon Blanc. They are especially interested
in the narrative relative to the wine and the producer, leaving them vulnerable to consuming mediocre wine on the basis of a good story. They also are more likely than their parents to try new wines, and are more likely than their parents to spend over $20 on a bottle of wine. They are clearly the driving factor as US consumers continue to trade up, as higher-priced wine sales grew 14%, while lower end wine sales fell by 1%. As the “social media generation,” they are also far more likely to comment and post about wine on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.
Where will these wine consumers go from here? As is almost always the case with wine consumers, their tastes will change and evolve over time. As they become better educated on the subject of wine, and more widely traveled, their opportunities to experience a greater variety of wine will increase and their preferences will change. One day, they may even turn into their parents and discover California Cabernets and the grand Old World wines!
Written by Pat Daniel. Permission to publish by Columbus & the Valley Magazine.