Millennials, the largest generation in the U.S., drink a lot of wine. A study by the nonprofit Wine Market Council found that they drank 42% of the wine in the U.S. in 2015. That came to almost 160 million cases of wine!
Their interest in wine has made quite a splash in the wine industry. Rosé and canned wines are enjoying popularity they’ve never seen before, driven partially by Instagram influencers. Savvy companies are coming up with interesting narratives for their brands and not relying on taste alone. Also, sustainability is becoming more important than it has ever been before.
What does this wine revolution look like? And what can we as branders and marketers learn from the way millenials drink wine? Read on to find out.
Rosé has made a comeback
Unlike “true” wine connoisseurs, Millenials love rosé. It’s hard to say if it’s the peachy-pink color, which looks amazing on Instagram, the fact that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, or how easy it is to drink. Instagrammers Erica Blumenthal and Nikki Huganir started an account just to poke fun of rosé called @yeswayrosé. They now sell merchandise, from tote bags to T-shirts, in pale pink, many of which also bear their tagline, Yes Way Rosé, in large letters.
Josh Ostrovsky, or Instagram influencer The Fat Jew, loves rosé so much he got together with Twitter influencers David Oliver and Tanner Cohen of Babe Walker to start their own wine company called Swish. They sell “White Girl Rosé” by the bottle and “Babe Rosé” in cans. The labeling is straightforward and to the point – white with large blue letters. They told The Guardian, “Labels and branding are stuck in a major rut. So many swirly words and old-timey illustrations. We think the rosé drinker is over that vibe; we certainly were.”
They drink their wine out of cans
Just as millennials don’t mind sipping on pink colored wine, they also have no problem drinking wine out of a can. Neilson reported that in 2016, canned wine sales rose 170%, a sharp contrast to the 6% increase sales in boxed wine. In fact, Time called canned wine the summer drink of 2017.
A possible reason for the popularity of canned wine is its portability. Just as smart phones are way more portable than the desktops of the past, canned wine can be easily transported and consumed anywhere without the need for a bottle opener or glass.
Because it can easily be put into a cooler for a day at the beach or a summer barbecue, canned wine is frequently associated with summertime. The labeling on cans of wine reflect this, as many of them are whimsical colors, like light pink, and the wines they contain are typically white wines or rosés.
A wine’s story matters just as much as its taste
Everyone loves a good story, and for millenials, that applies to their wine. “So many millennials are interested more in the narrative of the wine rather than the wine. A lot of mediocre wine is being sold on the basis of a story,” Jason Jacobeit, the head sommelier of Bâtard restaurant in New York, told The Wall Street Journal. That may be why rosé and canned wine have made such a comeback — because they tell a fun and whimsical story.
If you’re looking for a wine company that tells great stories, you’ll love 19 Crimes, a company that features photos of convicts from the 1700s on each of its bottles. Their website reads, “Nineteen crimes turned criminals into colonists. Upon conviction British rogues guilty of a least one of the 19 crimes were sentenced to live in Australia… As pioneers in a frontier penal colony, they forged a new country and new lives, brick by brick. This wine celebrates the rules they broke and the culture they built.”
The convicts include John Boyle O’Reilly, a poet who escaped to America, Michael Harrington, an escaped convict who survived a typhoon, and James Wilson, a man whose famous letter set a prison break into motion. 19 Crimes was named Market Watch Wine Brand of the Year for its unconventional marketing.
They want unusual wines
Not only do millennials enjoy a wine with an interesting story, they also want to drink wines that are a bit off the beaten track. They seek out newness and adventure, which translates into a preference for more obscure wines. Rather than going for a typical Cabernet or Merlot, millennials are asking for wines from different, previously unknown regions of Spain and Italy.
Dr. Jean Twenge, author of the book Generation Me, told The Back Label, “I think a lot of this has to do with millennials’ need for uniqueness. Raised in a more individualistic time, they are interested in expressing themselves through personalized and unique purchases.” It’s also interesting that even though they have less money than previous generations, millennials are willing to shell out more money for a unique bottle of wine.
When I was walking the Camino del Santiago, I stopped in Bodegas Irache, a “Wine Fountain” built in 1891. In this 130 year old wine shop, I was surprised to find a bottle of sapphire blue wine, designed specifically for millennials.
On the back label, I read, “Produced using chardonnay grapes, fresh, aromatic, expressive, and elegant. Its blue colour and its mixture of mango, peach and apple flavors make this drink unique and different.” It was the perfect example of a unique, off-the-beaten-path, wine. Even though I’m not a millennial, I was taken in by it.
Millennials care about sustainability – and that doesn’t just apply to their food. They ask more questions about the farming practices of the vineyards that produce their wine. They don’t just want an interesting marketing story – they are also thirsty for the story of where their wine came from and how it was made. They want to see labeling that shows their wine is organic, sustainable, and natural.
What does this mean for wine brands, or really, any beverage brand?
If you’re creating a wine or beverage brand, you would be wise to pay attention to how millennials drink wine.
Here are a few of the key takeaways:
1. Newness is in.
If you’re branding your beverage as a “classic” or focusing on legacy as your primary selling point, you won’t attract many millennials to your brand. Instead, think about how you can present your product as something new and different.
2. Make it easy to drink.
Millennials prefer rosé and canned wine. That means they want a wine that goes down easy and that they can throw into a cooler on their way to the beach or a camping trip. Can you package your beverage in a way that makes it portable and easy to drink?
3. Craft a narrative.
Does your beverage have a story? If not, can you make one up, or tie it to a fascinating story from history? 19 Crimes tied their wine to a moment in history, celebrated a way of life, and told the true stories of escaped convicts. Your beverage doesn’t have to have a true story attached to it, but creating a compelling narrative for your marketing can go a long way.
4. Create an Instagram-worthy brand.
As you saw with rosé, making your brand look good on Instagram will get millennials’ attention. They’re not looking for traditional, tried-and-true wines. They want fun and whimsical beverages they can post on Instagram with a fun hashtag.
5. Make it sustainable.
Millennials care about how their wine is produced, and so should you. Use sustainable, organic practices as much as possible. If you can make your drink organic and your packaging from recycled materials, millennials will love your products.
Are you looking for a designer to make your wine or beverage company appealing? Let’s talk.