Millennial Generation Preferences for Wine: Further Evidence for Developing Effective Marketing Strategies

In the United States, Baby Boomers are still currently the generation that consumes the most wine.  However, the younger generation (a.k.a. “Millennials”, “Generation Y”, “Echo Boomers”, or “Nexters”) is continually learning about wine and may one day surpass their parental generation in terms of wine consumption.  Studies have found that there are significant differences in regards to wine consumption habits between the different age groups; therefore it’s important for wine marketers to get a better understanding of the behaviors for each in order to successfully advertise their wines to each group.  Even though there are differences between age groups, it is important to note that these differences are not universal across the globe, and similar age groups in different countries will display different wine behavior and consumption patterns.

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To date, most of the studies looking at differences between generations and wine consumption have focused on behaviors and attitudes toward wine; with very few examining the preferences and factors that encourage Millennials to chose wine as their preferred beverage.  A study that explores differences in wine preferences between generations (specifically, between the Millennials and their parent generation, the Baby Boomers) should provide very useful information to marketers in the wine industry and give them a better understanding of how to reach this younger generation.

The population of Millennials in the United States is roughly 76 million.  Though there isn’t an exact date for classification into this age group, it is understood that those born after 1978 are part of this generation.  Millennials tend to be very well educated, self-reliant, and very well connected to technology and the internet (almost 90% are connected to the web).  As a result of this strong connection to media and technology, Millennials are more likely influenced by information they find while connected.

Millennials are also very important in terms of their purchasing power.  They have their own money, and studies have also shown that they play an important role in their family’s decision making.  In regards to brands, it has been shown that Millennials look for brands that provide quality at a fair price.  They also prefer that advertisers tell the truth in their ads, and are less swayed by celebrities endorsing a product.  Finally, Millennials are more environmentally aware than their older counterparts, and are more environmentally and socially responsible.

What about consumption patterns?

Studies have found that Millennials are more likely to drink wine in bars and restaurants, compared to the older generations who prefer to drink wine at home.  Similarly, Millennials prefer drinking wine in social contexts and for relaxation, for example with friends and family in a bar or with a meal.  Even though Millennials are self-reliant, they are also easily influenced by other people, so if their friends and family are drinking wine, they are more likely to also drink wine.  As a result of this ease of influence, those in the Millennial generation consider recommendations made by retail clerks more important than their counterparts in older generations do.

In the US, Millennials tend to prefer domestic wines to imported wines, though they do show more interest in imported wines than their older counterparts.  Studies have also shown that the Millennial generation is the first to start off drinking red wines instead of the usual white or sweeter wines that individually typically start off consuming.  According to one study in particular, the Millennial generation prefers mostly red wines, and are also the highest consumers of sparkling wine in the US.

In terms of advertisements, Millennials are more influenced by ads focusing on social interactions rather than specific attributes about the product.  Millennials are also more highly receptive to alternatives to the norm, including screw cap closures, more portable packaging such as boxes and bags, as well as smaller sized portions.  In terms of labeling, Millennials prefer more creative labels.  Finally, Millennials prefer wine advertisements to be different from advertisements for beer or liquor.

The goal of the study presented today was to measure the importance given to US consumers to different attributes of wine when choosing to purchase a wine in an off-premise setting, and to compare the results between Millennials and their older generation counterparts.  The results of this study could be important with assisting the wine industry in better reaching the Millennial generation and meeting their needs by developing better marketing strategies. 

Methods

For this study, a web-based survey was conducted in April 2010.  The survey was split into three sections: 1) questions included those referring to the participants’ wine consumption behavior (to screen out those who never purchased wine in an off-premise setting); 2) participants rated the importance of 13 attributes of wine; and 3) questions regarding sociodemographics of participants.

The 13 attributes chosen for the survey were:

  •       Tasted the wine previously
  •       Someone recommended it
  •       Grape variety
  •       I read about it
  •        Brand name
  •        Origin of the wine
  •       Matches my food
  •        Information on the shelf
  •        An attractive front label
  •        Information on the back label
  •       Promotional display in the store
  •       Medal or award
  •       Alcohol level below 13%

The importance of each attribute was rated using the Best-Worst Scaling method.  This method works by asking the participant to indicate the most (best) and least (worst) important attribute from a sub-set of all attributes.  In this study, the “most” and “least” important attributes were related to how they influenced a participants’ choice of wine when purchasing in an off-premise location.

Results

  •       Out of the 260 US consumers participating in this study, 58.8% were women, 84.2% had a higher education, 55.4% were married, and 56.2% had an income over $50,000.
  •       Participants below the age of 32 were considered Millennials, and participants over the age of 32 were considered part of older generations.

o   45% of participants were Millennials, 55% were part of older generations.

  •         The Millennial generation was predominantly women, mostly unmarried, had higher education, and made less than their older generation counterparts.
  •       45% of participants bought wine less than once per month; 26.5% bought wine between 2 and 3 times per month; and 28.5% bought wine more than once per week.

o   There were no significant differences found between Millennials and the older generations in regard to monthly purchasing frequency.

  •         33% bought more than 7 bottles, 23.1% bought between 4 and 7 bottles, and 43.5% bought less than four bottles of wine during the last four weeks.

o   The Millennials bought significantly fewer bottles of wine than older generations.

  •       35.7% of purchases were in liquor stores, 21.8% were in grocery stores, 18.3% were in wine shops, 10.5% were in restaurants, and 9.8% were in wineries.

o   The Millennials bought significantly more often from grocery stores, while the older generations bought more from liquor stores and wineries.

Wine Attributes

  •       The most important attribute for the Millennials was “tasted the wine previously”, and the least important attribute was “alcohol level below 13%”. 

o   The same was true for the older generations.

  •        “Someone recommended it” was significantly more important for Millennials than older generations.
  •       “An attractive front label” was significantly more important for Millennials than older generations.
  •        “I read about it” was significantly more important for older generations than for Millennials.
  •         “Grape variety” was significantly more important for older generations than for Millennials.
  •        “Promotional display in store” was significantly more important for Millennials than older generations.

Conclusions

The results of this study show that there are significant differences in preferences for wine between the Millennial generation and the older generations in the United States, which is confirmed by similar results of other studies.  Though purchase frequency was similar for all generations examined, purchase volume was significantly different, with Millennials purchasing lower volumes of wine than their older counterparts.  Also, Millennials preferred purchasing their wines in grocery stores, whereas their older counterparts preferred purchasing from liquor stores or wineries.

According to the authors, the differences noted in this study suggest that the Millennial generations’ preference for wine is influenced more by marketing techniques such as in-store displays/promotions and labeling, whereas the older generations are more influenced by information about the wine, since they are more knowledgeable in general about wine and understand more details that Millennials may not.  As a result of the Millennial generations’ limited experience in wine, they are still developing a taste for it and are more easily influenced by certain marketing strategies that target their interests.

Since Millennials are a generation who in the near future will be of high value to the US wine industry, gaining a deeper understanding of their wine preferences and the factors that drive their preferences is crucial for the wine industry and wine marketers to alter their advertising strategies to better target this large group of buyers.  Studies, including this one, have shown that in store promotion and labeling is most influential on the wine purchasing behavior of Millennials, therefore it is in the wine industry’s best interest to focus on these areas for advertising.  Since Millennials wine preferences are still evolving, and they have been shown to be more open to new experiences and new types of wine, marketers should think about focusing their new product advertising directly on Millennials instead of older generations, who are already “set in their ways” in regards to wine preferences.

Since the sample sizes were relatively small, it’s tough to say if the results of this study are representative of the entire US Millennial population.  Future studies should be performed using a larger number of participants from all corners of the country.  Also, it would be interesting administer these questionnaires to Millennials all over the world, in order to get an idea of who Millennials’ wine purchasing behavior changes (or remains the same) in different cultures.

What do you all think of this study and its results?  Please feel free to comment below (no html tags, please).

Source: Chrysochou, P., Krystallis, A., Mocanu, A., and Lewis, R.L. 2012. Generation Y preferences for wine: An exploratory study of the US market applying best-worst scaling. British Food Journal 114(4): 516-528.

DOI: 10.1108/00070701211219531
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!

19 comments for “Millennial Generation Preferences for Wine: Further Evidence for Developing Effective Marketing Strategies

  1. raley roger
    May 10, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Interestingly enough, most millenials that I know react in the exact opposite way as this study suggests. 260 millienials polled……That's just too small a number to really ascertain anything useful. The younger people I hang with are really into having wine at home, for starters. And, very few of them buy based upon the label. They are more apt to buy based on word of mouth and tend not to rely on retail clerks. Millenials are not cynical, but they are discerning and can smell bullshit from a mile away. They don't like to be marketed to.

    My sense is that it's best for a winery to just do what they feel is what they really want to do. What millenials like most is authenticity. They're otherwise jaded by all of the consumerism that surrounds them.

  2. May 10, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    Thanks for your comments!

    I think you hit the nail on the head with your "authenticity" comments. Millennials can definitely see though disingenous advertising.

    In regards to the "typical" qualities of a Millennial in regards to wine behavior/preferences, there will always be some that fall outside the lines. I, myself, am a Millennial and also differ on some of the points just as your friends do. You're completely right, however, and that they definitely need to include many more participants in order to get a better sense of the behaviors of the Millennial population (in general) as a whole. It's even worse than you thought though–there were 260 total participants, and only 45% of them were Millennials (117 total). Eek! :)

  3. May 10, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    That's a really small sample (Raley: that's 260 US consumers, less than half of which are millenials). It's also a survey and self-reports are notoriously skewed.

    Raley does touch on a lot of good points. Labels can still sell mass-produced wine; so long as it's good value and communicates an unpretentious attitude it should be fine. Two-buck chuck is a case in point. Wineries will need to educate and drop some of the snob factor if they are to target millenials.

    (I'm currently consulting for a wine startup whose target audience is millenials. Based in Montreal, Canada)

  4. Christian Miller
    May 10, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    The fact that the sample is small doesn't necessarily mean it isn't representative, it may just mean the margin of error or confidence intervals are larger. I do a lot of quantitative research with wine consumers at Wine Opinions, and findings here don't look odd to me. The accuracy of self-reporting in surveys or online experiments depends alot on the type of data you are looking for and the design. It's very difficult to project volumetrics from surveys and people are very bad on price recall, but measuring things like awareness, plausibility of attributes, or controlled pricing or label tests can be done effectively.

  5. May 11, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    The reality is the consuming Millennial generation is not even close to the most important age demographic for the fine wine business
    today. That notion is a myth created from the misapplication of data and the repetition of misconstrued sound bites some like those above: "There were no significant differences found between Millennials and the older generations in regard to monthly purchasing frequency." Gloss over those comments and you might thing Millennials=Older Gen. What does that "purchase frequency" stat even mean to you? Millennials have 10x less wealth than GenX, the highest unemployment rate, are delaying job entry, staying at home longer, have the largest college debt, and are delaying starting families which contributes to wealth. Our perspective can be found here: http://www.svb.com/2012-wine-report/

  6. Christian Miller
    May 13, 2012 at 3:23 am

    Indeed, it's back to the old problem of trying to estimate volume or spending from surveys, always a risky business. Frequency does not equal volume or dollars. To top it off, there's evidence that the later wave of millennials is diverging quite a bit in consumption from the early wave, which would also accord with some studies on the divergence between unemployment rates among new graduates (bad & rising) vs. their cohort already in the job market. But to be fair to the study, it does say that millennials said they bought fewer bottles.

  7. Wineknurd
    May 13, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    I am 36, am I a millenial?

  8. Nick Webb
    May 13, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    I am not surprised at all by the findings. Many millennials are trying to find their footing when it comes to understanding and purchasing wine. When you don't know a whole lot about wine and the shelves are lined with hundreds to thousands of bottles, the easiest thing to do is buy a wine that you've already tried or a wine that a friend/family member has recommended. Another easy option is to buy a bottle from an attractive promotional display or if all else fails, pick a wine with a fancy label.

    Of course, some millennials are very knowledgeable about wine and make their selections based on the producer, region, vintage, etc. , but this is a minority of the group.

  9. Wineknurd
    May 13, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    Maybe I am genX

  10. Antonio Graça
    May 13, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    I am always quite wary of web-surveys, especially when authors fail to disclose whether they used some strategy to avoid having the same person answering several times under different names or asking his/her friends to come in and support his answers. These results must be evaluated with severe reserve.

  11. Christian Miller
    May 14, 2012 at 4:29 am

    Actually, there are various ways to prevent this in online surveys. But yes, it does take some extra investment in time and technology.

  12. Tom Wark
    May 15, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    This all strikes me as pretty simple to understand: Millennials simply don't have the money to spend, they don't have much knowledge of wine and therefore their current choices are dictated by superficial things like which label is pretty and which wine is more heavily promoted in places where you find less expensive wine.

    However, this will all change when they move into their peak earning years. They will approach wine differently, spend more on wine, get beyond labels and seek authoritative information to sooth a curiosity and greater knowledge base that is supported by greater disposable income. In other words, they will begin, as they age, to look and act like today's baby boomers.

    This means that the degree to which a winery seeks the current attention of this younger group depends entirely on the price point of the wine they make.

  13. May 15, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    I say be whatever you want to be ;)

  14. May 15, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    I think your comments are right on target, Tom. Preferences change as one learns through experience, and surely the same will be true for Millennial wine preferences. I'm very curious to see how this develops!

    Thank you EVERYONE for all your great comments! Keep up the great conversations!

  15. Polymeros Chrysochou
    July 18, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    First of all, I'd like to congratulate the person from the blog for reporting the results from our study, as well as other interesting studies. I accidentally found it, thus I would recommend that it would be nice if the authors of the papers that are discussed are contacted in order to boost even more interesting discussions, and provide explanations where needed.

    Reading the comments I agree with most of them and make a lot of sense. The aim of the study was to compare the two generation cohorts. I can accept that there are differences within the same cohort, and a bigger sample would allow to catch these within-Millennial differences. So, I am not surprised that some who belong to this cohort don't find themselves in line with the findings. Yet, the sample is enough to catch the aggregated differences between the two cohorts. However, while conducting the work I was concerned as to whether the Millennial cohort is different across States, especially between wine/non-wine regions. A bigger sample in this case would eliminate this potential bias. I would be interested if someone investigates this in the future and give some light on the matter.

  16. July 18, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    I am so excited to hear from an author on one of the papers I've presented! Thank you so much for commenting!

    That's a fantastic idea to alert the corresponding authors on each paper that I review, so that they may have a say with what I've written and if I've made any misinterpretations of the results that warrant clarification.

    I appreciate you taking the time to read my post and to comment. I hope to read more research from your group on this topic in the future!

  17. Polymeros Chrysochou
    July 18, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    I am happy to see all these comments and concerns. I see only benefit from this, since it generates discussion and mostly makes us who write these stuff to think more. I am happy to answer any questions and I assume that all authors whom you cite would do the same.
    Keep up the nice work!

  18. Tom
    August 24, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    I find the whole idea that millennials don't want to be marketed to a little puzzling. First, because who really does want to be marketed to in the first place? And secondly, because the way this group appears to prefer getting its information comes at a price, (Someone always pays for content, even if it's not necessarily the end user.) So perhaps advertisers are getting cleverer at sneaking in marketing in electronic content, but it's definitely there and people, even millennials, are responding to it.

  19. August 24, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    That statement is a little bit odd, I agree, since really, who wants to have ads thrown at them all day every day. Perhaps it's a certain style of advertisement that turns off Millennials. Advertising is all over everything everywhere these days, and one cannot escape it (not even Millennials!). I, personally, try to tune out advertisements, particularly when it comes to TV or radio, but once you get on the internet, it's hard to avoid. Even if one is only seeing an image in one's peripheral vision, it's embedded in one's subconscious and the advertisers have done their job.

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