As more millennials reach the legal drinking age in the US, the massive generation has turned its thirst for adventure and experimentation into a leadership role in both wine purchasing and consumption.
Millennials consumed 36% of all wine purchased in 2015, according to Beverage Dynamics. The youngest generation of drinkers purchased 159.6 million cases of wine in 2015, as compared to boomers (114.1 million cases), Gen Xers (74.5 million cases), and the over-69 crowd (31.6 million nine-liter cases).
In recent years, winemakers have been elbowing for a permanent seat at the bar alongside makers of beer and spirits, which have enjoyed brisk sales among millennials due to the popularity of craft beer and brown spirits like bourbon, Scotch, and rye whiskey. Sales of flavored versions are equally impressive: Sazerac’s Fireball Cinnamon Whisky saw sales climb 65% in 2015 alone, reaching nearly 4 million cases.
Winemakers are working to win over women as well, and it seems to be working. Wine drinkers are skewing younger and female, according to a recent Wine Market Council Research Conference. As a result, Prosecco, rosé, red blends, and Sauvignon Blanc were best sellers in 2015, led by imported sparkling wines.
Millennials also promise volume growth. The generation drinks more wine per occasion. For every 3.1 glasses of wine millennials drink, Gen X drinks 2.4 glasses and boomers drink 1.9.
Major industry players and volume producers like Constellation Brands, Jackson Family Wines, and E&J Gallo, which market a huge stable of wine brands, are well-positioned to benefit from consumers’ affinity for exploration.
Wine drinkers are more willing to experiment with a variety of brands. Some 19% of them have purchased 10 or more wine brands in the past year, as compared to 15% of overall beer drinkers and 5% for spirits.
Industry Impact — US winemakers, particularly those that manage several brands, must target their marketing efforts to a new generation of wine drinker that is looking to experiment with a variety of brands and with lighter, everyday wine styles.
Tracking the moves of consumer products makers since 2003, Catherine Colbert is an industry researcher, writer, and blogger. Previously, she spent ample time in magazine publishing, technical writing, ad copywriting, medical writing, and marketing. Follow her on Twitter.