Over the last 20 years trying to understand consumers needs and wants has become a difficult challenge. For many professionals who have worked in the industry, the shift from the Baby Boomer generation to Millennials has had quite a drastic effect on marketing. When we think of millennials and their drinking culture, we might imagine youngsters knocking back artesanal beer or taking selfies with whatever the cocktail of the day is. The fact is, though, that millennials now consume more wine than any other generation that came before.
A study in 2015 showed that 42% of wine worldwide is drunk by people born between 1980 and the late 1990s. I find this interesting because growing up in Kenya, wine was generally only drunk by our parents or elegant women with perfect manicures. Our generation (yes, I too, am of this generation) generally grabbed any sweet alcoholic beverage we could get our hands on with Redds, of course, topping the game.
One of the reasons Millennials are so wine-focused today is because of branding. When choosing a wine to drink, my peers focus a lot on what’s on the bottle and less on what is actually inside. Gone are the days of comparing grape varietals and vintages of certain years. Our generation has always been very visual so it’s no wonder that interesting branding or packaging appeals to us. When it comes to branding, we are also more interested in a sense of authenticity – who are the people who produced the wine and what’s the history behind it. We prefer the story behind the wine rather than the score it was given in a wine magazine or by a critic.
Another fascinating change from generation X to Y is that we want to discover wines more than our parents did. We have broader tastes and are more accepting of blends rather than single varietal wines. This has forced winemakers to be more creative in their recipes. Whereas red blended wines were seen as a heresy in the past, they currently account for a large percentage of wines being produced.
Millennials have also greatly impacted how wines are produced. Try a little experiment and ask an older, more experienced wine drinker what eco-certified or vegan wines are and you will probably get a “that’s a thing of your generation” type answer. But the truth is, as we get more conscious about our environment, our buying patterns change. We tend to drink wines that align with our personal or world views.
Our generation has also seen the birth of interconnectivity. We are able to access information at our fingertips. Hence, we tend to shy away from direct marketing – i.e we don’t like brands to market to us, we prefer to discover things on our own. We like the idea of sharing experiences and being informed, so much so that a picture on Instagram of your friend drinking a bottle of wine has a higher impact on you drinking the wine than if a wine critic gave it a good score. We are a generation of shared experiences. We also not only drink differently, we educate ourselves differently. This has been thanks to the number of wine apps available. Traditional media has not gone away, but we rely more on social media to access information.
But above all, my favourite difference is that we are more friend oriented. Our friendship component is a big aspect of how we drink as we want to share the occasion and create memories. Now I’m pretty sure the 42% wine rule doesn’t apply here in Kenya yet, but I’ll venture that fashionable 22-year-olds are now more likely to pick up a bottle of wine than we were 10 years ago and older generations ever were.
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Follow Josiah Kahiu on IG @knife_ and_wine