Millennials, otherwise known as Generation Y, currently are the largest consumer group in United States history. It is within the United States that market research first found that Millennials, as they reach legal drinking age, have become increasingly interested in drinking wine. In regards to wine consumption practices among Millennials, some studies have shown that they are generally willing to spend more for wine (though some studies have shown the exact opposite), and that consumption patterns are generally different than other generations previous. Also, as I’ve discussed in a previously written post on this blog, even something as detailed as bottle label preferences is different for Millennials than older wine consumers.
Studies have also shown that Millennial behavior varies from country to country, and that generalizing all individual behavior within the Millennial generation is misguided. For example, while wine consumption among Millennials is rising in the United States, studies have shown that consumption is declining in their Italian, Spanish, and French counterparts. Some studies have suggested that even within a particular culture, it is extremely difficult to generalize across all Millennials, as even within a particular culture, wine consumption preferences are variable.
Based on several theories relating to generational behavior and experience, it has been suggested that different generations should differ in their social values, as their experiences early on in life shape their choices for the remainder of their lives. When comparing wine consumption patterns of the younger generation to the older generation, studies have shown that younger wine consumers see wine as more of a social occasion beverage, of which they are more likely to consume in bars or restaurants instead of at home as the older generations prefer. Younger wine consumers are also not partial to only wine, and consume a variety of alcoholic beverages, whereas older consumers tend to stick with wine primarily.
There is currently a lot of conflicting evidence when it comes to determining wine consumption patterns and preferences of Millennials. For example, when it comes to the choice between domestic and imported wines, some studies have shown that Americans prefer to consume imports, while other studies found just the opposite, indicating a Millennial preference for domestic wines. Generalizations of Millennials across countries also seems to be problematic, as even though studies have shown that in general, Millennials prefer red wines over white, the Millennial population of Australia significantly prefers white wines over red.
The current study presented today seeks to examine this question of whether or not wine consumption patterns of Millennials can be generalized across or within different cultures throughout the globe. First, the paper sought to determine the degree to which Millennial wine consumers differ from older generations, in regards to wine consumption preferences and purchase patterns, and how generalizable these patterns are across cultures and markets. Second, the paper sought to determine the effect of generation on the variance of the consumer behavior. According to the authors, this second analysis will determine if generalizing wine preferences across generations is useful in wine marketing strategies.
Five countries were evaluated in this study, while also covering both a traditional and a more recently established wine market in Europe and North America. The two traditional European markets studied were France and Germany, while the more recently established wine market in Europe studied was the UK (historically a beer-drinking region). For North America, the United States (the world’s largest import market) and Canada were studied.
Within the United States, the Northeast (New York metropolitan area) and the Midwest (Chicago metropolitan area) were compared, with the Northeast representing a more traditional market, the Midwest representing a newer market (which is most similar to the rest of the country). Canada, a traditional wine market, was split into two different cultural regions, the English-speaking part of the country, and the French-speaking part of the country. All of these areas represent different geographical and cultural regions throughout the globe, which can then be compared for difference among Millennial wine consumers.
Surveys were distributed to study participants, that were first written in English, then translated to the appropriate language. These surveys were then back-translated, to be sure all interpretations were equal across cultures. In order to qualify for the study, participants were required to have consumed wine at least once in the last two months, were of legal drinking age, and have purchased a bottle of wine within the last three months. The study subjects were already wine consumers, and therefore the results are not representative of those Millennials who have never consumed any wine whatsoever.
- Personal Values: Conservatism
o There was a small generational effect on conservatism, and was nearly universal across all markets.
o Older generations tended to give higher conservatism values than younger generations.
o Conservatism was most important in Germany, and least important in English-speaking Canada.
- Personal Values: Openness to Change
o There were small to medium effects across markets, and very small effects across generations.
o There were significant difference between North America (most open to change) and Europe (least open to change).
o On average, younger generations were more open to change than older generations.
- Personal Values: Self-Enhancement
o There was a strong effect of self-enhancement across generations.
o Younger generations tended to be more success and status oriented than older generations.
- Personal Values: Environmental Concerns
o There was a strong effect of environmental concerns across generations.
o Younger generations tended to be more concerned about the environment than older generations, though the difference was not significant between the Millennial generation and Generation X.
o There were market effects as well, with the older generations of Germans showing more concern for the environment than the younger generations.
- Alcoholic Beverage Preferences
o Millennials were more likely to purchase wine in addition to other alcoholic beverages, such as beer or liquor, compared to older generations who primarily purchased only wine.
o There were smaller differences between the generations in more traditional markets compared to more recently established markets (traditional markets less willing to change?).
o Younger wine consumers were more open to alternative packaging of wine, including boxes and cans, and was seen more strongly in the US and English-speaking Canada than in France, Germany, and French-speaking Canada.
- Wine Involvement
o There was a weak generational effect that is country-specific.
o Generation X and the Millennial generation were more wine-involved in the US.
o In the traditional markets of France and Germany, the younger generations tended to be the least wine-involved.
- Wine Innovativeness (desire to try new wines)
o The older generations were least likely to try new wines.
o In the Northeast USA, France, and the UK, Generation X showed the highest wine innovativeness.
o In Germany and French-speaking Canada, the Baby Boomer generation showed the highest wine innovativeness.
- Wine Consumption Patterns
o Older generations tended to drink more wine than younger generations, though there were several country-specific differences.
o In the Northeast USA, Gen X and the Millennials drank significantly more wine than the older generations.
o In France, Germany, and the UK, wine consumption frequency increased with age.
o There were no differences in the Midwest USA or Canada.
- Price Per Bottle Paid
o As a result of the different tax and food systems in each country, there were huge market effects in the average price paid per bottle among wine consumers.
- Domestic vs Imported
o There were no significant generational effects of the choice between domestic or imported wines, though there were some trends.
o The Great Generation tended to drink more imported than domestic wines overall.
o In English-speaking Canada and Germany, older consumers tended to purchase more domestic wines, while the younger generations tended to purchase more imported wines.
- Red, White, or Rosé?
o Nearly all markets showed that Millennials drink significantly more white and rosé wines than red wines.
§ Many of the wine preferences for Millennials may be attributed to the fact that they are relatively inexperienced with wine, thereby preferring the generally more approachable whites and rosés than reds.
o France showed the highest preference for rosé wines, the UK showed a high preference for white wines, and French-speaking Canada showed the highest preference for red wines (all Millennials).
- Distribution Channels
o Since not all countries have the same distribution system/channels for wine, the authors were not able to determine any market differences.
o In the US, there were no differences in distribution channel choice among wine consumers.
o Gen X and Millennials in France and Germany, as well as Baby Boomers in the UK tended to purchase their wines from grocery stores.
o Millennials in Germany often used discount stores, while the Millennials in the UK tended to use small, independent food stores.
o For the older generations in Canada, Gen X in France and Germany, and Millennials in the UK, purchasing wine in liquor or specialty stores was common.
o English-speaking Canadian Millennials preferred purchasing directly from the winery, while older generations preferred this source in France and Germany.
o English-speaking Canada was the only market where the authors found the internet as a primary source for purchasing wine for Millennials.
o Online wine ordering in the UK and France increased with age.
o Online wine ordering in Germany was highest for Gen X and the Baby Boomers.
What does this all mean?
The authors of this paper presented a large amount of data, which provided some fascinating results and interpretations. First and foremost, based on these results, it’s safe to say that wine preferences are NOT generalizable for Millennials across the globe, and must be focused more on the market level.
It should also be noted that even though Millennial interest in wine is growing, the older generations still represent the core of many of the traditional wine markets around the globe, and thereby should not be discredited or ignored. Both cohorts must be considered, and a balance must be obtained in order to help the Millennial population grow and learn more about the wine they are consuming, while at the same time not alienating the older generations that are less willing to change and try new types of wine.
The results of this study showed that wine consumers tended to share wine preferences if they shared similar cultural backgrounds, and not necessarily geographical regions. For example, there did not appear to be any differences in wine preferences (in general) between the Northeast and Midwest USA, whereas there were large differences between English- and French-speaking Canada. The market most similar to French-speaking Canada was France, thereby indicating that it is culture and not necessarily geography that molds wine preferences for generations.
There will not be an easy “one-size-fits-all” approach to targeting specific generations, since as this research has shown, there is variability in regards to different markets. Due to the variability within a generation of a given market, it is clear that the differences cannot be due simply to generational means. One thing this study did not cover, which likely is playing a major role in the variability within generations, is sociodemographics. Future research must look into this likely source of variability, in order to even further refine their targets. Also, future research would need to examine other currently expanding wine markets, such as China and India.
In general, I thought this study provided excellent information regarding wine preferences of many different generations in different cultures. I would be fascinated to see this study include the sociodemographic part of the picture, as well as the inclusion of even newer wine markets. Being a Millennial myself, I can relate to the great variability in the study, as I myself found I did not fall into line with other Millennials when it came down to certain characteristics. As the Millennial generation grows and matures in their wine tastes, the question of how to market to them will evolve. I, for one, am excited to see how it develops over time!
I’d love to hear what you all think! There is really a lot of discuss that I didn’t have time for in a single post. Please feel free to start a discussion on what fascinated/bothered/interested/what-have-you the most in the comment section below!
Source: Mueller, S., Remaud, H., and Chabin, Y. 2011. How strong and generalisable is the Generation Y effect? A cross-cultural study for wine. International Journal of Wine Business Research 23(2): 125-144.
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!