Millenial Drinkers: What Do They Really Prefer?

February 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

I have recently come across some conflicting reports and data that show that the wine industry should stand up and pay attention to some trends emerging among the Millenial Generation. (Everyone born between 1981 and 2000) The points that I raise may probably not endear me to the fine wine community, particularly those who are smugly satisfied with wine’s potential among the Millenials.

The 2011 Wine Market Council Report’s recent press release once again extolled the growing consumption of wine among these young, Millenial consumers.  Ironically, that same release also mentioned, and I quote “News on beer showed the craft and Mexican import segments grew slightly….”   Here is what Nielsen research indicated, as reported by the Shanken News Daily: “Craft and specialty brews continue to be the most vibrant segment in the beer category, surging 16.6% by volume in the 52-week period, with even stronger value growth (+17.8%) on an average price of $31.80 a case”. (In my work monitoring on-premise wine trends, I try to keep abreast of craft beer and spirits trends, having worked in both sectors during my career.)  For the statistically challenged among us – that includes me – an annual growth rate of 16.6% means a doubling of volume in 4.2 years! 

This is not the only conflicting data published about the wine industry and our competitors in beer and spirits. Based on findings by the Wine Market Council, I’ve been lead to believe that Millenials are firmly in the wine camp, yet competing reports contradict that viewpoint. Research presented at the 2011 Cheers Beverage Conference indicates that 66% of Millenials prefer cocktails to other beverages. (Unlike the Wine Market Council, Cheers and its affiliated Beverage Information Group, report on wine, beer and spirits). However, according to the 2009 Wine Market Council Report, 59% of Millenials indicate wine as their preferred alcoholic beverage.  Winemetrics does not monitor cocktail or beer lists at the moment, so I don’t have any empirical evidence to support a surge in craft beers and cocktails in the restaurants we survey. However, anecdotally, during my recent tour assessing restaurant wine lists, I have seen an upsurge in ultra-premium cocktails and craft beer, to a point where many mainstream casual restaurants provide more offerings on their cocktail and beer menus than are offered on their wine lists.

I think at this point it is too early to tell where the actual preferences of Millenials lie, as many are still under the legal drinking age and their tastes will evolve with age. One thing is certain however, the beer, spirits and wine industry are locked in a competition for this generation’s share of mind and palate, and from my street level perception, the momentum is with our competition.

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