According to a new study by Napa-based Invictus Marketing, 35% of Millennials now drink wine at least once each month. This may not seem like much, but it makes them the second largest wine-consuming group in the nation, right behind the Baby Boomers.
It also represents a dramatic shift from the patterns of a decade ago. Back then, wine industry executives were wringing their hands over their failure to engage the newest generation of drinkers. The widespread fear was that Millennials would grow up and avoid wine during their peak earning years, which would effectively torpedo the entire industry by 2050.
The future of wine as a high-priced status symbol now seems relatively assured, but there’s still widespread disagreement over the best way to market the product to the Millennial generation. This is a new debate: When I began drinking wine seriously in the 1970s, there was no effort on the part of the industry to reach out to younger drinkers. If you were interested in the subject, it was considered your responsibility to educate yourself and develop a palate.
This is no longer the case, as evidenced by a company named Offbeat Brands. Their latest venture, Jellybean Wines, is produced “in an approachable, fruit-forward style designed to appeal to the ‘sweet spot’ of Millennial and Generation X consumers.” The wines are varietally based (Chardonnay, Cabernet, etc.) but obviously have something added to them—the details seem purposely vague. There are also Jellybean Shooters, actual jellybeans with flavors that mirror the taste of the individual wines.
I haven’t tasted Jellybean Wines, so I can’t report on whether they are off-dry beverages with legitimate wine-like character (such as a German liebfraumilch) or taste like soda pop infused with alcohol (i.e., White Zinfandel). All I can say for sure is that they seem designed for people who lack the time, effort and interest to engage with wine on its own terms. Nor do I know the best way to market wine to the Millennials—although I’d suggest that treating them like adults would be a good start.