Our original customer base which consisted of predominantly baby-boomers and Gen-X is aging and getting replaced by younger consumers. In order for us to continue our presence in the wine market it behooves us to understand the character, habits and life style of the new generation known as the millennials. Recent statistics show that the millennials last year drank 42% of all wine consumed in the US, more than Gen-X and the baby boomers. They account for 79 million Americans ages 21 to 38. In 2015 they drank a total 160 million cases – an average of 2 cases per person per year. These are very impressive numbers to say the least. Other data obtained on their drinking habits looks as mind blowing. 30% of the millennials are frequent imbibers who drink wine at least 3 times per week with an average of 3 glasses per sitting. What is even more striking is that two thirds of these millennials are women under 30.
I always believed that drinking wine is a cultural and a gastronomic experience. Some people think that it is more prestigious than drinking any other alcoholic beverage. While wine drinkers for the most part are better educated, some believe that being a wine lover makes them more sophisticated and intellectual. But above all I am convinced that people drink wine because it gives them pleasure.
I believe that the millennials are not very different. They bring all these factors into consideration when they think about purchasing or drinking wine even though they may be less complicated and more transparent. Personally, I always make a point to spend time with my younger customers during Tasting with Winemaker events to understand their wine drinking habits and at the same time try to give them some wine education. I always feel that they are thirsty for knowledge and very interested in the narratives behind the wines as much as the wines themselves. I was very surprised recently to find out that the consumption of beer by millennials has declined from 70% a few years ago to 40% in 2015 replacing the beer with wine and cocktails. In my opinion this is happening because beer has more functionality and wine is more emotionally fulfilling, a factor that the millenials are able to discern in shifting their preference.
The millennials are very experimental and adventurous. This makes them less loyal to varietals, wine growing regions or brands of wines. They mistrust the 100 point rating system for wines. They regard it as a fabrication of their older wine drinking peers. On the other hand, wine is a popular subject discussed extensively in the social media. The exchange of information becomes the basis for their decision to purchase the wines they have never tried before.
Looking at my crystal ball, I predict great things will happen to the wine industry in the near future as the millennials start dominating the market. Small wineries that make quality wines will be sought after replacing over-priced brands that are promoted by self-proclaimed olfactory prodigies that pretend to be neutral judges of wine. Reasonably priced creative blends that fulfill the adventurous spirit of the millennials will take the center stage.
A toast to the millennials!