What Are Wine Preferences of Different American Generations?

(Based on excerpt from Vineyard & Winery Management article entitled Wine Generations.)

Generations

American Generations from WMC Study

There is an old adage that as people age, they drink more wine. In many cases, research has validated this concept. Yet in the early 2000’s, members of the Millennial generation turned 21 and began adopting wine in large percentages. This has continued over the past 15 year, until in 2016, the Wine Market Council reported that US Millennials consume more wine (36%) than Baby Boomers (34%). At the same time, Gen Xers, now in their 40’s, have still not adopted wine to the extent that Millennials have.

So why are there these generational fluctuations when it comes to wine, and what differences are apparent in the various American generations? The fact that the newest Generation Z (also called the iGeneration) just turned 21 in 2016, makes this a more compelling issue for the wine industry.

Vineyard & Winery Management magazine published one of my articles, written with Dr. Chang, describing our recent study on this topic. This posting is an excerpt of some of the highlights in the study. Millennials were divided into Older (30 – 38) and Younger (21 – 29), due to previous research showing that as Millennials age and obtain jobs with higher income, they drink more wine.

Overview of the US Generations

Though there are different definitions regarding the names and dates of American generations, we will use those provided by the Wine Marketing Council; illustrating age ranges in 2015. We have also included characteristics of each generation:

  • Swing Generation – aged 70 – 82. Currently around 30 million Americans. Grew up during several wars and part of the Great Depression. Considered to be cautious, disciplined and self-sacrificing. They are drinking less wine due to health reasons.
  • Boomer Generation – aged 51 – 69. Currently around 77 million Americans. The largest generation in history. The first TV generation. Started the “free love movement. Considered to be optimistic and driven. Currently buying and drinking a lot of  wine in America.
  • Gen Xers – aged 39 to 50. Currently around 44 million Americans. Called the “latch key” kids because they were often the children of divorce. Skeptical, individualistic, but also community minded. Primarily a cocktail generation, but now drinking more wine.
  • Millennials – aged 21 – 38. Currently around 70 million Americans. Also called Gen Y and Echo Boomers. Grew up with the Internet, and parents who told them how special they were. Optimistic, team-oriented, assertive, and believe in work/life balance.  Buying and drinking a lot of wine.
  • iGeneration – aged 6 – 20. Currently 61 million Americans. Also called Gen Z. Born into a period of terrorism. Grew up with cell phones. Very technology savvy. Entrepreneurial, seek face to face interaction and honesty. Unclear of their wine interests at this early stage, but very interested in healthy food. 

Consumption Frequency:  Boomers and Older Millennials Drinking the Most Wine

The results showed that Boomers (41%) and Older Millennials (43%) drink wine more often, but Older Millennials actually scored significantly higher than the other generations in terms of drinking wine on a daily basis. This suggests that Older Millennials are an important segment for wineries to focus on, especially as Boomers continue to age and may not be able to drink as much wine in the future due to health reasons.

Table 1: Frequency of Wine Consumption by Generation

Generation Daily Several Time Per Week Occasional

(Once a week or less often)

Younger Millennial 12% 39% 49%
Older Millennial 22% 43% 35%
Gen Xer 16% 39% 45%
Boomer 13% 41% 46%

 Major Findings:

  • Preferred Wine Types – All Generations Love Red Wine, but Disagree on Other Types
  • Involvement: Millennials Much More Involved With Wine than Other Generations
  • Risk Taking: Millennials and Gen Xers Much More Willing to Try New Wines
  • Price: Millennials Willing to Pay More for Wine
  • Purchase Locations: Wine Shops and Grocery Stores Preferred by All, but Older Millennials Most Likely to Purchase Online

Social Media & Ecommerce Findings

  • Social Media: Agreement on Facebook, but Younger Millennials Prefer YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest
  • Social Media to Discuss Wine: Older Millennials Talk About Wine the Most, and Boomers the Least
  • Wine Apps: Used Most by Millennials, but Boomers Like Wine Searcher

Table 2: Percentage of Generations Using Wine Apps

Use Wine Apps Vivino Hello Vino Delectable Wine Searcher
Young Millennials 32% 18% 14% 10% 14%
Older Millennials 44% 29% 25% 18% 19%
Gen Xers 30% 13% 15% 10% 15%
Boomers 13% 3% 3% 2% 9%

 Key Take-Aways

Though it is not possible to list all implications of this research here, there are a few key take-aways that may be helpful to wine marketers and strategists who are trying to sell wine to the different generations:

  1. Respect the Boomers: This generation is still drinking  a lot of wine in America today, so though they may spend less than Millennials, they are still an important segment to target. However wine strategists need to develop contingency plans to prepare for the aging of Boomers and the probable likelihood that they will drink less in the future due to health reasons. Traditional marketing channels will still work with this generation, but Facebook and WineSearcher seem to be good ways to connect with them online.
  2. Don’t Ignore Gen Xers: Though this is a smaller generation, and seemed to prefer cocktails over wine when they were younger, their wine consumption behavior has increased as they’ve aged. They also appear to enjoy trying new wines, and do go online to get information about wine. They have almost as high a usage of Twitter and Youtube as the Millennials, and are willing to pay more for wine than Boomers.
  3. Target Older Millennials: This generation appears to be highly engaged in wine and is willing to pay more for it. What may be challenging is that fact that they know so much and are very technology savvy. Wine marketers need to learn how to connect with this cohort across promotion channels, but especially online. Both innovative and intellectual methods are necessary to keep this group engaged with a brand.
  4. Innovate for Younger Millennials: This younger cohort has lower income, but are willing to spend more on wine than Boomers. However, they enjoy trying new wines, and varietal is not as important to them. This points to a need for new innovation wine styles and options for this group, as well as online advertising that is more focused on Youtube, Instagram and Pinterest.
  5. Study Needs of iGeneration: It’s difficult to believe that the iGeneration turned 21 in January of 2016, but very little is known about their wine drinking perceptions. The fact that they are very interested in healthy food and nutrition suggests that focusing on the natural way in which wine is made, especially sustainable, organic, and biodynamics wines, could be useful.

References

FOR A COMPLETE COPY OF THE STUDY, CONTACT VINEYARD & WINERY MANAGEMENT magazine: Thach, L. & Chang, K. (2016). Wine Generations: A new survey looks at consumer wine preferences. Vineyard & Winery Management, Vol. 42, No. 1, pgs. 124-128.

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