Millennials are wine’s next big consumer. So why aren’t smaller business in the wine industry (boutique wineries, wine shops, wine bars, etc.) seeing much of the action? There could be several factors at work, most of which business owners have direct control over. These controllable factors include outreach, branding, marketing, social media presence, brand awareness, accessibility and plain old customer relations. However, one factor that many people don’t think of – and one that business owners do not have direct control of - is the current buying habits of this generation.
Somehow (Millennials) have gotten to the point where we’re getting $15 – $20 everyday drinking wine, but we’ve never been to a tasting, never been to a winery, and feel like we have no idea what we’re actually doing. It doesn’t stop us from buying, but it does keep us in our comfort zone of the same familiar aisle at Trader Joe’s. And there’s the issue.
Though there are some numbers out there that I have found useful for my own use, the details that small businesses need are not available from the huge (and expensive) research firms at this time. Having all the tools, I decided to take matters into my own hands and conduct my own online survey for my company, Millennier Wine Sales. This survey was conducted over the internet using direct email and social media tools. The sample size consists of over 100 respondents within the age range of 21-32. The percentages that you see are rounded to the nearest 100th of a percent. The respondents were all located in states where it is legal to purchase wine grocery stores, and mainly resided in California.
Though this information was originally intended only for MWS, I’ve decided to publish my findings in the hopes that people will take notice of the trends and pass on the information so we as an industry can do something about it. I’ll continue to post the other findings of this survey, but I find it extremely important to all aspects of the industry to focus on this first question:
Millennial buying habits as revealed by a recent Millennier Wine Sales online survey: Bars 1.91%, Grocery Stores 45.71%, Liquor Stores 25.71%, Mini Mart 1.91%, Restaurant 4.76%, Wine Shops 17.14%, Other 3.80%
The most important lesson we learn from this chart is that ALMOST HALF of Millennials are buying their wine in a grocery store. An additional 25% are purchasing wine at liquor stores that include giants like BevMo and others. With results like these, it is not hard to understand why small businesses in the wine industry are not feeling the positive effects of this Great New Hope called Millennials.
It makes sense really. As a Millennial, I’ve walked the path than many of us have taken, and many more will continue to do so in the future: We get our first apartment and realize that with 2 Buck Chuck, we can actually buy wine! It’s kind of a big deal to even HAVE wine as a 21-22 year old, so I would (swear to God) not drink it myself, but save it for guests (I know, I know). After we get used to buying wine for $2, we start in on the Yellowtail. Now we’re experiencing a new varietal or 2 and guess what – this is why we love Syrah! After some time with the YT, we now know we enjoy wine and are comfortable spending more than $10 on a bottle of wine. Now we’re serious wine consumers, but the only place we really feel comfortable buying wine is in the super-market. Somehow we’ve gotten to the point where we’re getting $15 – $20 everyday drinking wine, but we have never been to a tasting, never been to a winery, and feel like we have no idea what we’re actually doing. It doesn’t stop us from buying, but it does keep us in our comfort zone of the same familiar aisle at Trader Joe’s. And there’s the issue.
Less than 2% said that they purchase most of their wine from wineries or wine clubs (included in the “other” category). How will smaller wineries that do not have placement or distribution in huge grocery store chains be able to reach this important group? How will small businesses in all areas of the wine industry benefit from this generation if almost all the money is going through only 2 channels?
The answer is clear. OUTREACH. It’s a great sign to see over 17% of this group purchasing most frequently from wine shops. This is a trend that everyone in the wine industry should encourage. It could be the only way that non-supermarket brands can benefit from these consumers in the short- and long-run. I strongly believe that WE as members of the wine industry need to be the ones to get Millennials out of the grocery store aisles and into wine shops & wineries. Talk to your favorite wine shop, encourage them to reach out to this age group. If you are a winery and the shop carries your brands, offer to hold a tasting there geared towards younger drinkers. If you are a retailer, look into social media – even if you’re intimidated, all it really takes is a Facebook page. Throw events, reach out to younger social groups in your area, get creative. I know of a young BOOK CLUB in LA that has all their meetings at a wine shop with a tasting bar.
Though this will be a difficult hurdle to overcome for smaller businesses in the wine industry, it is not insurmountable. It will take a grassroots approach to create the paradigm shift that is needed, but the first step – identifying the issue – has already been taken. Please pass this information on to others who are affected by it, even if it’s just something that is brought up in conversation.
If you are a small business in the wine industry and you have already taken steps to get young people out of the grocery store aisles and into wineries or wine shops, leave a comment, share what you’ve learned with others who are looking to start. If you’re a Millennial, what do you think would regularly get you into a smaller wine retailer? Share your thoughts and let’s get to work!