The Art of Marketing Wine to Millennials

Baby boomers are still the biggest spenders when it comes to wine, but millennials are the fastest-growing group of wine drinkers, and their social-savvy ways, adventurous palates and quest for fun are driving shifts in both the kinds of wine being produced and where and how companies, restaurants and retailers are marketing wine to millennials.

Wine accounts for about 20% of alcohol purchased by consumers age 21 to 34, up from 13% a decade ago, according to research compiled by Napa Technology, and the drinking-age members of Gen Y are expanding their horizons when it comes to the kinds of wines they’re willing to try. Unlike their elders, who tend to stick with the familiar varieties and vintages, millennials aren’t afraid to experiment, said Napa Technology spokeswoman Jayne Portnoy.

“They have opened up the marketplace extensively, they’re looking into malbecs and Argentinean varietals and things like that,” she said. “They’re not afraid to try new things, they’re very explorative.”

About 89% of millennials will pass up major name brands and buy wine they have never seen or heard of before, the research shows, and they also prefer fun and contemporary to traditional when it comes to wine labels.

These wine drinkers are also looking for wine that comes with a story, especially about where it’s sourced from, and when they travel, they’re looking for locally sourced wines, as well as local craft beers and food, said Kimpton‘s Restaurant Marketing Strategist, Penelope Crocker, during a recent newBrandAnalytics panel.

“They want to understand where things are coming from,” she said. “What are the different things we can talk about that make this menu unique?”

Social-savvy millennials want to hear the stories in more than one way, said Napa’s Portnoy. “They’re equally compelled by a unique wine tasting; they like to travel in packs to wine tastings and events. But they also have no problem going to the Internet to read up on everything.”

That shifts are starting to be reflected in retail stores, where wines that were once separated into sections labeled France, Italy and California are now merchandised based on their taste profiles, Portnoy said, and it’s also showing up in labels and other marketing materials.

“They’ve gone to a much trendier way of speaking to the consumer, because that’s who they’re appealing to,” she explained. “There are brands that have already transitioned to trying to appeal to that millennial consumer, by being humorous and appealing.”

Napa’s Wine Station, used by restaurants, cruise ships and other venues to serve wines by the glass and preserve wines for up to 60 days after they’re opened, said millennials’ more experimental ways are making way for better, more extensive by-the-glass wine lists as well. The group is living at home in greater numbers, so they’re able to spend more of their disposable income on wine, and the Internet gives them access to the resources they need to educate themselves.

Some 52% of millennials said visits to wine websites influence their purchasing decisions, and 43% of wineries and suppliers boosted their spending on social media in 2011, according information compiled by Napa Technology. Young wine drinkers are also more likely to listen to wine information from friends, store employees and advertisements, according to research by Mintel.

In addition to opening up to more new experiences when it comes to wine, millennials are also open to spending more, consuming nearly three glasses per drinking occasion and spending on higher-priced wines than their Gen X counterparts. Further, just how much they’re willing to spend depends on the occasion — Gen Y consumers will spend about $10 or $15 on a bottle to take to a party, $20 or $30 on a bottle for themselves to drink at home and $50 or more on wine while dining out, according to Napa Technology’s report.

Napa Technology’s report includes tips for marketing wine to millennials, including:

  • Host blind tasting events to enhance the sense of discovery and challenge their knowledge
  • Hold theme-driven evenings focused on specific regions, wine makers or varietals, and include wine flights and pairings
  • Create a more worldly wine list, with a mix of well-known regions and exotic varietals and blends
  • Create point-of-sale materials that feed their quest for knowledge
  • Make your wines easy and convenient to buy at the places millennials look, including grocery and convenience stores
  • Incorporate technology, from iPad ordering to wine-related gaming, to connect with Millennial wine drinkers
  • Fuel social media conversations
  • Offer group events to appeal to their social side
  • Show your brand’s socially responsible side

by Janet Forgrieve SmartBlog