The majority of Millennials have now reached legal drinking age, and their preferences are getting lots of attention from wine producers all over the world. A quick glance at most bar and restaurant wine lists, however, shows that for the most part, on-premise operators are still using the same old method to create their portfolios by opting for widely-available, nationally known brands that seem, to new eyes, much alike.
According to research by Wine Opinions, a firm headed up by wine market guru John Gillespie that provides wine, beer, and spirits consumer and trade surveys, tracking studies, and other research initiatives, a compelling majority (about 85%) buy wine they've never tried before at least 2 to 3 times a month. Far more read or write comments about wines on Facebook (about 60%) or have posted a picture of wine they’ve liked on social media sites (about 70%) than subscribe to a wine-focused publication (about 20%) and only 17% of them care what wine pundits say in any case. They are uninterested in such time-honored evaluation tools as the point rating system. Instead, they look to peers for recommendations, and also seek a personal connection: interesting stories about the wine or the people behind it.
This massive generation (about 75 million) does appear to have general preferences similar to previous generations. For instance, like Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, they prefer red to white and sparkling, and equally enjoy booming wines like moscato. But, unlike those previous generations, brand loyalty doesn’t exist with Millennials at the same level.
For years, wine sellers on- and off-premise have claimed that their goal was to demystify wine, to shed the intimidation factor and help consumers consider it an everyday drink. Be careful what you wish for, goes the old adage, because in this case it means that Millennials no longer look as much to operators to choose safe selections for them. They prefer to be challenged and intrigued, which makes staid and predictable wine lists a thing of the past for those looking to bolster their traffic and attract younger consumers.
Why? Because by 2017 they'll have more buying power than any other demographic group. While some trends (like increasing household creation) may help many chain restaurants that cater to families, Millennial dining and drinking habits may have been set by 2017. This means that the traffic is likely to head toward those who have made an effort to combine convenience with novelty, kid-friendly cuisine and parent-friendly wine lists.