Research shows that Baby Boomers spend an average of $4,900.00 a year on wine and Gen X spends an average of $5,717.00 annually, while Millennials only spend an average $4,163 annually (*)
At the same time as this, there are many wine publications, magazines and wineries that ignore Millennials altogether and keep focusing mainly on Gen X and Baby Boomers. With Millennials becoming 50% of the workforce by 2020 - where every third person in North America will be Millennial - ignoring them is ignoring 50% of your target market! Therefore, ignoring Millennials, as much as we don’t like to admit it, is carving the future of a dying industry.
To fix this decline we need to first listen and learn about who the millennials are, what interests them, what they relate to, and what they spend their money on.
Who are the Millennials?
Of course, not all Millennials are the same; Neither are Baby Boomers! That being said, we have certain tendencies as age groups that the wine industry can learn from.
Unfortunately, Millennials are often being seen in a negative light, often criticized for being lazy, unmotivated and emotionally weak.
What we need to understand is that these humans were born to a different reality than Baby Boomers and Gen X: Job stability doesn’t exist, the housing market is making it impossible to purchase anything, and so on. And yet, these people were born with families who have money, so they are already accustomed to the “good life”.
With the prediction that there won’t be fish in the sea by 2060 and that half of the species on earth could go extinct by 2050, the mentality of the millennial is, on one hand, to look at here and now because the future is not promised, but on the other hand, to look for solutions to fix our world.
Millennials vs. Boomers
Future Investment vs. Living In The Moment
Where Baby Boomers purchase “stuff” (i.e furniture, houses, china sets, wines to age), Millennials spend their money on "experiences” (i.e travel, concerts, coffee shops, activities of the moment).
For example, Baby Boomers want to impress their boss and colleagues with smart wine words and show how sophisticated they are, whereas Millennials care for feeling joy when they drink wine, sharing it with friends. Another example: Baby Boomers are into storing and ageing wines, whereas Millennials are more into purchasing ready-to-drink wines, feeling as if they travel the world through tasting wine.
Routine vs. Diversity
Statistics show that when purchasing alcohol, 52% of Baby Boomers have a specific brand in mind, whereas only 25% of Millennials have a specific brand in mind. Millennials are also much more open to trying a variety of brands and exploring wines that they haven’t tried before.
When it comes to Champagne, most Baby boomers (71%) decide what to buy based on a previous purchase, as in, if they enjoyed a specific bottle of wine, they will come back for it. Only 43% of a Millennials decision is based on previous purchase experience.
Word-of-mouth is a huge factor for Millenials and lots of this 'research' is done online using Instagram and other social media channels. This is where they connect with others who share the same passions, follow people they personally trust and respect.
Tradition and Reputation vs. Exploration and Simplicity
Wine for Baby Boomers is a tool to show social status, knowledge, and intelligence. Therefore, they will likely hire the “well-suited” Sommelier to lecture about wines.
On the other hand, Millennials like a more authentic and simple approach to life in general. They care for exploring and celebrating, not relating to the “well-suited” wine professional who is there to lecture and inform them of “right” or “wrong” when tasting wine.
Ten years ago you could have had the snobbish somm holding a glass of wine to promote a certain wine – but now the younger generation won’t buy into it. Never mind completely ignore it! Instead, they respect experts that are authentic, real, leading trends, and knowledgeable.
How Do We Move Forward?
Encouraging Diversity and Open-Mindedness in the Wine Industry
We ought to encourage variety, not only of grapes and regions but of diversity of people who influence the industry (i.e sommeliers, winemakers, wine journalists). Unfortunately, there are still very few people of colour working as winemakers or sommeliers, and there are even fewer women of colour or openly LGBTQA+ in our industry. I once tried to write an article about LGBTQA+ winemakers, but there weren't any people to interview!
Millennials care for human rights, and many of them question their gender while looking for an acceptance of a variety of lifestyles and appearances, especially within the industries that they connect with, not excluding liquor.
In the wine industry, we should start thinking about what we can do to encourage non-white and non-men people to be included in the scene! Be Authentic and Simple - Just Be You (Even if you are a Somm)!
Tell the story behind the wine. Talk about the personalities who make the wine - their challenges and what drives their passion. Keep it personal and real. Don’t be pretentious or a “know it all”. Most importantly - interact when conversing with Millennials, don’t lecture at them!
Instead of preaching what is “right” or “wrong” – let them explore their own truth - themselves. Walk them through tasting experiences, comparing sparkling wines of different prices blindly. Try the same wine in different types of glasses to see if the wine taste changes. Being interactive is key!
Be Present Online and Interact!
With 25% of millennials spending more than 5 hours per day on their phones, as a wine influencer, winery or a brand you must be present there too!
Social media doesn’t work like the old style of advertising on billboards or magazines, where you’d put an ad and your job is done. Social media (as the name indicates) is SOCIAL - therefore, without taking the time to interact and socialize there is no way to influence and promote your brand.
You need to connect with influencers and get your product to them in order to get authentic exposure for your product.
Be a Lifestyle, Not a Company!
Champagne excels in connecting its wine to other industries that are not connected to wine or food at all, such as car racing, fashion and design. There are endless pictures of car racing winners spraying Champagne on the podium, or models spraying Champagne while showcasing the top fashion designs.
Do Something that Matters
Do Something for the Greater Good!
61% of Millennials expect companies to use their power responsibly and make a difference in the world, whereas only 41% of Baby Boomers expect this. You can see an increase of companies who donate a certain percentage towards Sick kids, LGBTQA+ and other causes as well.
The wine industry, as compared to other industries, has a long way to go with this responsibility (Aside from Champagne, which is much more evolved in this matter ex. Veuve Cliquot is a big supporter of women entrepreneurs).
A trending company today must be lifestyle-based with a political statement, showing that they act on it and are not only there to sell their products and make a profit.
Wine, like life itself, is a living thing that is constantly changing. We can’t stop it, and we shouldn't resist change. The fear of change and breaking tradition is huge in the wine industry, which is keeping us behind and creating a gap between us and Millenials.
Millennial are the future. And with its natural diversity, multi expressions, and complexity, wine deserves to be apart of that future!
*Based on Nielsen shopping fundamentals statistics