Millennials are used to being blamed for the demise of everything from movie theaters to golf. Now, according to one newspaper story, they aren’t going to wine tasting rooms, either. The fact is that those between the ages of 23 and 38 aren’t drinking all that much wine. Millennials comprise nearly 30% of the U.S. voting age population but consume just 17% of the premium-priced ($12-20) wine. When members of this generation do buy wine, they typically purchase bottles in the price range of $7-11 with a taste profile that leans toward sweet and fruity.
Predictably, these facts have wine executives concerned. The U.S. wine industry has enjoyed three decades worth of robust sales. Americans consume nearly 800 million gallons of wine each year, a number that has more than doubled since 1981. Here in North Carolina, wine consumption has seen a fairly steady 4.1% growth rate since 2012, based on tax data. But on a national level, the wine business entered a period last year of flat-to-negative volume growth.
With baby boomers heading into retirement, they will have less buying power and lower wine consumption. Not surprisingly, the marketing focus now has to be on the millennials. There are a lot of forces at work. Nearly two-thirds of millennials say they are actively trying to reduce alcohol consumption. While craft beer remains a significant force, more and more younger drinkers are turning to products like Michelob Ultra or White Claw which have fewer calories and lower carbs.
It’s been said that millennials are experiential or promiscuous consumers, so spirits and kombucha are gaining additional traction and, in those states where it’s legal, cannabis is a factor. After all, there are only so many dollars one can spend on personal pleasure. If you are strapped with college loans and just an average paying job, you probably don’t have the coin to finance a trip to Napa wine country.
And, of course, there is also a factor of generational resistance. “Kids don’t want to drive their father’s car to high school,” says Rob McMillan, the EVP of the wine division at Silicon Valley Bank. Millennials want something that is authentic with a unique or edgy story they can place on Instagram. “They want something cooler from wine too,” says McMillan.
For some wisdom to deal with the issue at hand, let’s turn to Benjamin Franklin:
“Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance.”
Truer words were never spoken.