In beer, it’s craft; in spirits, it’s cocktails; but in the wine world, the topic that occupies the minds of most players is the habits of the Millennial consumer.
The age cohort of Millennials now are around 75 million consumers strong, roughly equal to the Baby Boomers, but with remarkably different consumption, spending and trial patterns.
For example, their eclectic tastes have been credited with much of the power behind the booms in red blends, rosé and sparkling wines especially Prosecco. Wine brands are unevenly getting a handle on how to attract them, using social media, competitions, rewards, access to wineries and events - anything thing that appeals to their casual and experimental approach to wine.
Dr. Liz Thach, distinguished professor of wine and professor of management at Sonoma State, Rohnert Park, CA, says a number of wineries are cutting out the third tier altogether to reach them. “Some wineries with younger owners here in Sonoma are doing things like filling growlers with wine for customers, something which Millennials are really attracted to because it is sustainable and casual.”
They have to, because there is little evidence bars, restaurants and retailers are doing anything exciting or remarkable to drum up wine consumption from these folks. According to Warren Solocheck, vice president of the foodservice consultancy NPD Group, very little on-premise attention is focused on innovative wine marketing or promotion. Real, interesting choices are hard to find, especially among chain restaurants. Enabling servers with better wine knowledge would help, he says. “Servers are very important, they are the ones who need to know what they are talking about, because it will be their recommendations that will help Millennials select a wine they aren’t familiar with. They are much more willing to take a recommendation from a stranger than any other demographic group.”
Thach says things like wine in keg works especially well at attracting Millennials, especially if an operator includes multiple portion sizes for tasting. Wine cocktails, too, are welcomed by many Millennials. But you’d be hard pressed to find either option at most chain restaurants. All that suggests it’s business as usual at most operations, and that means there’s a golden opportunity for the forward-thinking beverage pro who realizes that Millennials are now an amazing assortment of consumers who, at the older edge of the group, have money to spend and want to spend it where the choices excite. To presume they will shortly start drinking like older generations is really more whistling past the graveyard than a sensible strategy for any restaurant.