Millennials: The Flashier the Label, the Better the Wine!

While walking along the aisles of a wine shop or the wine section of the grocery store, one is exposed to hundreds of different kinds of wines.  As a result of this continually growing sector, wineries must figure out a way to make their product stand out against all of the rest.  In order to maintain a piece of the market share, increase sales, and to overall maintain customer interest in the product, effective wine marketing has become critical.

At this point in time, the Millennials have surpassed all generations in becoming the largest consumer group in United States history.  In 2009, there were a total of 76 million people in the United States that were considered part of the Millennial generation, all between the ages of 9 and 30.  It is important to determine consumer preferences early on, as studies have shown that as consumers age, they tend to retain the same preferences in wine. 

In order to be successful in creating a product that consumers will be more willing to purchase, wineries must consider the entire package.  Not only should the wine be at least palatable, but all aspects of the wine bottle itself need to be considered.  From label design and bottle design to brand name and logo, changes in any one of these components may have an effect on purchase intention by the Millennial (or any other consumer, for that matter).

According to studies, the label is the most important piece of communication between the marketer and the consumer.  The front label inevitably piques the consumers’ interest, while the back label supplies the consumer with more detailed information, after they’ve been “hooked” by the front label.  Front labels often include several pieces of information (in some places, this information is required by law); including origin, varietal, percent alcohol, volume, and vintage.  Back labels can have a wide variety of information presented, however studies have shown that more important pieces of information include food pairings, taste descriptors, and winery history information.

Millennials are and will continue to prove to be critically important consumers of wine throughout the United States and the world.  As the largest consumer group in the United States, they are often characterized as financially stable, brand savvy, and seeking quality goods at fair prices.  In regards to wine, 45% of Millennials were first introduced to wine by a family member, with 48% of them preferring reds, 18% of them preferring whites, and 34% enjoying both reds and whites.  According to studies, the top three reasons why Millennials drink wine are: 1) because they enjoy the taste; 2) the fact that wine pairs well with food; and 3) it helps them relax.  To Millennials, wine also tends to be associated with more special events, such as nice dinners and weddings.

When surveyed, Millennials regard eye-catching designs as the most important factor for package design (including wine).  Wineries must therefore use the label design in order to increase sales to Millennials, of which will be largest consumers of their wines should they be successful in their marketing endeavors.  Since it has been shown that wine consumption preferences (for Americans) are established by the age of 40, it is critically important for wineries and marketers to establish their customer base of Millennials now while they are still relatively young and impressionable.

The goal of the study reviewed today was to determine whether viewing labels would influence the consumers’ perceived taste and quality level of the wine.  Published earlier this year in the International Journal of Wine Business Research, the authors from Texas Tech University set up a four-stage study to determine Millennial consumer preferences in regards to taste and label design.


There were 97 participants in the study, all between the ages of 21-30 (roughly 40% male, 60% female). 

The four stages of this study were: 1) a basic marketing survey (assessed purchasing habits, taste preferences, and product cues); 2) a blind tasting (used as a baseline for comparison purposes); 3) a product packaging evaluation (type of closure, bottle color, information on labels); and 4) another tasting, this time with the packaging in hand during the sampling (to see if taste preferences and quality determinations changed after seeing the wine bottles).

For the tastings, both the blind and the tasting in which packaging was visible, a tasting grid consisting of questions related to fruit characteristics, acidity, oak, sweetness, overall quality, and purchase intention were presented to participants.  For both tastings, the same wines were provided, though participants were not informed that was the case.

Table 1 from Henley et al, 2011 shows a brief summary of the label descriptions of the four wines tested.  There were two Rieslings and two Pinot Noirs (one each traditional style and contemporary style labeling, respectively.

Table 1 from Henley et al, 2011


  •       The most important attribute considered by Millennials when purchasing wine in a retail setting was the label description.  A simple, rather than complex, label description was also preferred.
  •       There were some significant differences in taste attributes when comparing the blind taste test results to the taste results after packing information was considered.

o   Traditional Riesling:

§  The perceived acidity increased.

§  Overall opinion and purchase intention decreased.

o   Contemporary Riesling:

§  The perceived oak characteristic decreased, perceived dryness increased and perceived fruitiness increased.

§  Purchase intention significantly increased.

o   Traditional Pinot Noir:

§  There were significant increases in the perceived dryness, fruitiness, overall opinion, and purchase intention.

o   Contemporary Pinot Noir:

§  No significant changes in any attribute.

  •       There were some significant changes in the fruit attributes of the wines when comparing the blind tasting to the tasting after label information was provided.

o   Traditional Riesling:

§  After reading the label, which indicated flavors of pear and apricots, Millennials noted an increase in apricot flavors.

o   Contemporary Riesling:

§  After reading the label, which indicated flavors of apples, peaches, and citrus fruits, Millennials noted an increase in apple and peach flavors.

o   Traditional Pinot Noir:

§  There was no indication of fruit flavor on the label, thereby there were no changes in perceived fruit flavors by the Millennials.

o   Contemporary Pinot Noir:

§  After reading the label, which indicated flavors of cherries, raspberries, and red fruit, Millennials noted an increase in cherries and raspberries.

  •       There were significant changes in quality perception and purchase intention when product packaging was evaluated.

o   Traditional Riesling:

§  Purchase intention decreased.

§  Overall opinion/quality decreased.

·         Specifically, cork closure, script font style, and the lack of wine producer information negatively impacted quality perception.

o   Contemporary Riesling:

§  Purchase intention increased.

§  Overall opinion increased.

·         Specifically, screw cap closure, and the blue and silver front label (perceived as “eye-catching) positively impacted quality perception.

o   Traditional Pinot Noir:

§  Purchase intention and overall opinion remained unchanged.

§  Times New Roman font did impact overall quality perception.

o   Contemporary Pinot Noir:

§  Purchase intention and overall opinion remained unchanged.

§  Purchase intention increased slightly, though it was NOT significant.

·         Screw cap closure, and the green bottle with red, blue, and white colors on the front label (perceived as eye-catching), impacted the overall quality perception.

  •       Overall, participants appreciated wine producer information on the label.
  •       Overall quality was a significant factor in the purchase intention of any wine.


One result I found interesting was that it is clear that there is a huge power of suggestion when it comes to flavor/taste perceptions in wine.  I encounter this all the time in the tasting room: when the flavor descriptors are present on the tasting sheets, winery visitors often taste similar characteristics.  However, when flavor descriptors are absent and the description of the wine is more vague, winery visitors often taste more of a variety of flavors in their wines (no statistics, just pure observation).  I always suspected there was some sort of power of suggestion, and the results of this study now confirm that idea.

More importantly, however, these results clearly indicate that front label information and package presentation have an effect on Millennial consumers intention to purchase and their perceptions of overall quality of the wine.  Those labels that are more eye-catching and, dare I say “flashy”, appeal more to the Millennial generation and thereby will more likely result in their purchasing of that wine, and overall increased enjoyment of that wine (which would theoretically result in the future purchase of that wine).  It is important that wineries acknowledge this and incorporate these designs into their labels if they want to capitalize on the biggest consumer markets in the United States.

It is important to note, however, that the results of this study may not be generalizable to the entire population of American Millennials, as there were some strong limitations with the study.  First off, most of the participants were university students from only one part of the US (southwest), therefore, their level of education (bachelors, Masters, Post-doctoral) is not representative of the entire US Millennial population.  Secondly, the study does not capture the entire Millennial population because a large chunk of Millennials are underage.  Due to the nature of this and any study related to Millennials and alcohol, this limitation will never change due to legal issues.  Next, the participants were also mostly Caucasian, therefore they do not represent the diversity that is the entire population of Millennials in the United States.  Finally, only two styles of wine were presented as options for the participants.  It’s possible that maybe these particular participants did not like Pinot Noir, thereby no significant changes were noted.

Future work needs to address these limitations to make the results more generalizable to the entire Millennial population.  In the meantime, the results of this study still provide interesting results and provide a stepping stone into the label preferences of Millennials from which future studies may build upon.

What about you all?  What do you think of this research?  Any Millennials wish to comment on their own purchase intention preferences?

Source: DOI: 10.1108/17511061111121371
I am not a health professional, nor do I pretend to be. Please consult your doctor before altering your alcohol consumption habits. Do not consume alcohol if you are under the age of 21. Do not drink and drive. Enjoy responsibly!

10 comments for “Millennials: The Flashier the Label, the Better the Wine!

  1. Michael Amaya
    October 6, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    I would agree with the research in most cases. I do tend to try new wines that have eye catching labels, however, I would rather try a new wine based on a recommendation from someone I trust regardless of the label design. I can also see how people would taste certain things in the wine when they are looking for them versus trying to point out those elements without any outside suggestion. I think it's a plus when they put those elements on the label because it helps us novice wine drinkers understand what we are looking for when tasting. You have to remember that we Millenials are just now discovering wine. We have many years of wine drinking ahead us to learn the art of wine tasting so any help from the pros is greatly appreciated!

  2. October 6, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    Hi Michael,

    Thanks for reading and thank you for your great comments!

    Like you, I definitely like to seek out advice from those more knowledge than I on the brands they are carrying, or if there is no knowledgeable sales person available, then I look for little tags that have awards/high scores on them, or some other piece of information that may indicate a good bottle of wine. If all else fails, then I tend to be drawn toward bottles with more unique labels.

    That being said, if I'm looking for a "special" wine and have no other way of analyzing it other than the label, then I tend to go for more traditional styles. Perhaps I subconsciously think that means they are of higher quality, though who knows!

    I, too, am a Millennial (though on the older end of the generation), and I am looking forward to the many years of wine drinking that we still have to come!

    Cheers, Michael! Thanks again for your comments!

  3. November 1, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    I am always wary of discussions of such research because it is ECONOMICS research and not NEUROBEHAVIORAL research.

    The power of suggestion is a factor – to most causal consumers (and to some more serious “aficionados”).

    What invariably is extrapolated from these kinds of publications, however, is that humans are so easily fooled that there is no point in trying to describe or identify varietal or regional character or traits indicative of one type or another food pairing success or age worthiness. It propagates the nonsensical concept of subjectivity or wine and it tells those that have the sensory and intellectual skills and aptitude to truly learn wine for themselves that what they want is not achievable.

    In medicine, it is said that if you don't know what to look for, you'll never find it. Similarly, if you look at artwork and design of a label (or reputation or history or whatever PR line) and not the attributes of the wine, you will never truly know much about the wine at hand.

    The anecdotal account of tasting notes in the tasting room (which are meant to make the wine alluring to the average visitor, not to accurately convey the character of a wine, and thus can stray far afield of reality) is not an unknown phenomenon. It has to do with recognition (and training – not the same as experience) and is best illustrated by the fact that people do better on multiple choice tests.

    All this aside, I have been watching your blog and writing for some time and find your approach fairly even-keeled and reason-based (gasp! a reasonable blog?!?!). I would particularly commend your analysis/distillations of research publications.

    Stay academic!

  4. November 1, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    Thanks for reading, SUAMW!

    Your comments are very insightful and I appreciate you writing them! I agree with many of your points. A study that could marry both the economics and the neurobehavioral aspects of this kind of system would be more informative then simply performing one type of study while trying to make implications for the other type.

    I'm glad you've been enjoying my blog! I try to present the research as best I can in order to reflect exactly what the authors set out to do, and I'm happy that it has been so well received among my readers!

    I hope you'll continue to enjoy my posts and continue to comment! Cheers!

  5. November 2, 2011 at 2:50 am

    If I may make a suggestion: what establishes sound evidence for clinical use in medicine is: a) replication of findings by other investigators, and b) peer review – subjecting a study's data and discussion and conclusions to an editorial process the purpose of which is not to give a direction but to "spot-check" the math, assertions, citations, logic, etc.
    One thing doctors learn in residency is to critically analyze published studies for their design, validity of data and conclusions – so they think critically about what they read. in trade publications
    Perhaps you might consider applying a similar level of critical analysis to the studies you present. You do this to some extent now. I don't mean that you should pick apart the statistics etc, but challenging the ideas and conclusions and "spot-check" the assertions, citations, logic, etc – where necessary.
    A voice like that is needed.

  6. November 2, 2011 at 2:57 am

    That is a great suggestion, and one of which I have thought about, for sure. I have participated in in-person discussion groups picking apart papers (unrelated to wine, but the idea is still the same) in greater detail than I have been doing for this blog. Based on those experiences, I know for a fact there is often at least something in almost every paper that one can pick up be it with the experimental design or statistics that is questionable and should be addressed.

    I think part of the reason why I haven't done that to a large extent yet in this blog is related to time issues. Since this is not a full-time venture for me (not yet anyway!), it is sometimes difficult to put in the amount of time I'd like to on every single post.

    I'm glad you brought up the suggestion though, as it reminds me of a consideration I've had for some time now, and will likely start adopting it, at least in a minor way (for the time being). For the most part, my goal has been to simply present what the authors did and what they found, but I agree, I should add in a little bit more criticism of the methods/statistics (that is, if they are present).


  7. JOWBI
    November 8, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    I agree with the comments posted by SUAMW on the need to critically evaluate the research studies we read, but I would like to clarify one point he or she makes that may mislead readers. The International Journal of Wine Business Research in which the original study appears in not a trade publication. It is an academic journal the employs a rigorous peer review process. It receives manuscripts from professors from around the world and its acceptance rate is currently quite low compared to many academic business journals. The reputation of the journal has increased considerably in recent years. While wine business scholars would be the first to admit that their research studies have limitations, articles appearing in the journal have been closely scrutinized before publication.

  8. November 9, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    Thank you for reading and commenting, JOWBI!

    All (or at least all so far) of the articles I review on this site come from peer-reviewed journals. Yes, they are always heavily scrutinized before being accepted for publication and printed, however, there are slip-ups occasional. There have been moments when reading articles from peer-reviewed journals that made me wonder how in the world it could have made it passed the editors, so unfortunately, errors and limitations that are not outwardly acknowledged by the authors still make it to publication.

    However, these mistakes I believe are rare, and for the majority of papers out there, the science is relatively solid. It's good to read even these articles with a critical eye, in case there was something that the editors missed.

    Great comments! I hope you'll continue to read and comment on these posts!

  9. December 2, 2011 at 1:03 am

    I have no issue with the source publication. I was not criticizing it. Consider that with ongoing research topics gain definition and what was a well-done study that made it through the scrutiny of a prestigious academic journal may come to be invalidated by further work. All this means is that research – in the empirical, scientific context – is just a way of asking a question. And how a question is asked can shape (if not dictate) the answer.

  10. Jackie
    November 8, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    Regarding the marketing of wine, I think wineries and companies need to really focus on the Millennial target market and not just do as the feel. Since Millennials have so much buying power, it wouldn’t make sense for companies NOT to take advantage of their preferences. Lately, I have seen a lot of wines branded specifically towards younger people with simple, catchy name labels such as “LOL” or Be’s line of wines that are labeled, “Flirty”, “Fresh” or “Bright”. Personally, I think it’s a smart move for businesses to use these strategies to bring more Millennial consumers in.

Comments are closed.