The latest screams coming from the wine industry concern the competition it is getting from craft beer, small batch spirits, cocktails, and hard cider, especially among Millennials, now 70 million strong and increasing as more of them reach drinking age.
Such drinks are competing with low-priced industrial wine, made from vineyards in the Central Valley. After table wines priced below$7 saw sales decrease by 1.2 million cases,farmers began to rip out vines and plant more profitable crops. Millennials do buy wine at that price point, but it’s often foreign rather than the likes of Gallo and Kendal-Jackson. Even wine listings by the glass on restaurant menus diminished by 12 percent, sharing space with craft beer, cocktails, and cider, all likely to be cheaper than wine and of better quality at the low end. Millennials are not stupid.
“What’s going on,” wine professionals are asking, and “Should we be worried?” Probably.Table wine priced under $7 is the core of the domestic wine market, where new wine drinkers gravitate.
Saddled with educational debt and unemployed or marginally employed during this Great Recession, Millennials have been weak consumers. The domestic wine industry is concerned that they are cutting their teeth on foreign wine and non-wine beverages that might carry over even as they earn more money.
Just as tastes are changing from steakhouses and MacDonald’s in favor of farm-to-table restaurants, salad bars, and smoothie franchises, young people are interested in authentic,organic, and more natural products,produced with fair labor practices. Domestic craft beer and lower-priced wine from abroad are more likely to satisfy those criteria than industrial wine from California.
Advertising may be another failure that discourages their wine consumption. For decades,wine has been marketed as elegant and healthful, both issues likely to have less credibility with young people. If you have one in your family, whether male or female,you’ve noticed that they are likely to be wearing sneakers, jeans, tee-shirts, and hoodies,ala Mark Zuckerberg. The more money they earn, the more they spend on those items.But they won’t soon be buying suits.
Advertising featuring young people in cocktail attire doesn’t resonate, nor does wine as a healthy choice if it’s a low-priced industrial product. But young people, like the rest of us, do know how to have fun. Wine advertising has completely left that out of the picture whereas beer and cocktails are equated with good times. Maybe wine advertising should get more real if it wants to appeal to Millennials. Duh….