How Millennials Are Shaping the Alcoholic Beverage Industry


New Year’s Day 2016 rang in a new era for booze marketers: On January 1, all millennials were of legal drinking age.

Millennials are now between 21 and 38 years old and 79 million strong. Even without the last stragglers reaching 21, millennials consumed 159.6 million cases of wine in 2015, according to a recent report on U.S. wine drinkers from the Wine Market Council (WMC). That represents 42 percent of all the wine consumed in this country last year, more than any other age group (Baby Boomers came in second with 114.1 cases).

Last month, I wrote about WMC’s presentation on marketing to women wine drinkers. Wine Spectator’s Ben O’Donnell produced an excellent summary of the WMC millennial data specific to wine in his post here. Building on those metrics, here are my three “a-ha” moments and key takeaways for marketers seeking to reach millennial drinkers:

1. There are two types of millennials

Segmenting millennials into older (30 to 38 years old) and younger (21 to 29 years old) groups reveals substantive behavior differences when looking at wine consumption behavior. Millennials inhabit two significantly different life stages: Younger millennials are starting careers, while older millennials are more established in their lives, many with young families. This affects purchasing power, occasion usage and frequency versus other alcoholic beverage categories. Marketers need to hone on which of the groups they are targeting and develop specialized strategies against each beyond “millennials.”

2. Millennials are explorers

The WMC found that millennial wine drinkers seek diversity in regions and styles more than ever. California doesn’t pique millennial interest in the same way that other emerging regions do. That’s great news for new wine regions or brands seeking to stimulate trial. However, what does this curiosity mean for brand loyalty? Alcohol beverage marketers have a challenge ahead and will need to seek fresh ways of engaging this inquisitive demographic.

3. Millennial women spend more than millennial men

In dollar volume, women under the age of 36 make up 22% of the wine spend compared to men under the age of 36 at only 12%. That’s a huge difference. Women tend to be more open to innovation in wine, too, according to WMC’s data.

March women

While I’ve expressed skepticism in marketing to “women” as a blanket demographic (gender alone is not segmentation!), it is important to know and understand core consumers. Follow the money.

What’s Next?

The iGeneration is now beginning to turn 21. Who are they? Weighing in at 61 million strong, they are the most diverse and connected of all generations, according to the WMC, their name derived from the “technological engine to which they are harnessed.”

According to Nielsen, the beverage alcohol category is growing better than others, exceeding overall consumer packaged goods growth in both volume and value. Spirits are growing the fastest, followed by wine, then beer.


And while a rising tide lifts all boats, the battle for share will remain fierce, and good things will come to those who focus on their target consumers.

Related Posts: Women and Wine: What does this segmentation really tell us? Marketing Lessons from the 2016 Boston Wine Expo Health Trend: Teen drinking and drug use declines How Generations Give Thanks for CSR Lessons from the Biggest Brands in the Booze Business – Blue Chip Brands The Casual Approach to Millennial Marketing