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‘Don’t miss the point with US millennials’, Wine Intelligence warns industry

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By Ben Bouckley+

Last updated on 19-Aug-2014 at 15:46 GMT

Wine Intelligence believes the millennial impact on the current US wine market has been overstated but says only those firms that cater for their future buying habits will survive.

Introducing the firm’s report ‘Millennial Wine Drinkers in the United States’, Wine Intelligence COO Richard Halstead says millennial behavior is rewriting the rules across CPG categories.

“So much has been written, blogged and tweeted about millennials, it’s their impact on the current wine market that is perhaps overstated,” Halstead writes of millennials, who he defines as 21-34 years olds constituting 28.8m regular US wine drinkers.

“A typical cross-section of a weekend tasting room crowd at a Napa winery will show a strong bias to Boomers [50-64] and Generation X [35-49],” he adds “and many leading retailers also report that their best customers tend to be older types”.

Will millennials start to behave in ‘more conventional’ ways?

But using this evidence to dismiss the influence of millennials is to miss the point, Halstead says, given that their current influence is being felt in bars, restaurants and wine tourism destinations.

Millennials represent a third of the regular US wine drinking population and the group is increasing in size – they account for 40% of wine volumes and 50% of the spend.

“In the future, when their lives become less ad hoc, they may start to behave in more conventional ways,” he adds, noting the highly connected, obsessively social, mobile and frenetic nature of millennial consumption.

“Or else they may not, in which case all bets are off, and businesses hoping to survive over the next 20-30 years had better keep a close eye on how they evolve,” Halstead says.

Millennials are more likely to travel, live in cities, have college educations and have worked in at least three jobs (and sometimes three careers) by the time they hit 30, he notes.

10 ways to engage with US millennial wine drinkers

Despite education levels and their wine interest, Wine Intelligence warns that millennials lack confidence and wine knowledge, though they are adventurous and will try new and different styles.

The research firm says the millennials relationship with wine is driven more by parental influence and their own social image than income, wealth and other socio-economic factors.

Wine Intelligence carves the demographic up into four groups: Epicureans (who fully integrate wine into their social and cultural identity), Developers (wine forms part of a broad beverage repertoire and Peripherals (yet to be engaged with wine).

Finally, Pre-Legals are not yet legally allowed to drink but are already forming opinions on wine.

Wine Intelligence outlines 10 ways brands can engage US millennial wine drinkers, including ‘Get personal’ (help them create individual experiences and memories), ‘I need my tribe’ (connecting them with social circles) and ‘Take me seriously’ (not undermining them because of their age).

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