It wasn’t so long ago that millennials were “killing” everything from dining rooms to the canned tuna industry. More recently, Silicon Valley Bank’s 2022 State of the Wine Industry Report revealed that millennials aren’t buying enough wine to offset the sales lost from an aging baby boomer population, despite having the population and the spending power to do so.
If millennials are starting to sense relief from being the scapegoat of any industry that doesn’t appreciate that consumer preferences change over time, it’s because they now have company in Gen Z. Sometimes called zoomers, the oldest members of Gen Z — those born after in 1997 and later — are graduating college and spending disposable income. The wine industry is taking notice of legal drinking age (LDA) Gen Z, which happens to be the most racially diverse generation the United States has ever had. Forty-eight percent of zoomers are non-white.
To stay competitive, the industry should not expect Gen Z to consume the same wine (or the same way) that previous generations did.
Triple Bottom Line Values
Zach Morris, owner and sommelier at Bloomsday Café, a wine pub and bottle shop in Philadelphia, Pa., thinks about his Gen Z customers a lot.
“I’m trying to figure out how to capture their attention, keep their attention, and get them to spend money with us,” says Morris. “They have a lot to spend — and they do spend it. But they’re much more discerning than previous generations about who they’re spending it with. Local and sustainable is huge. If we can prove that we’re a small business with no big investors, and that we support other small businesses in a sustainable fashion, I believe that gains us a lot of trust and credibility with this crowd.”
To be competitive, Morris believes the industry must align with Gen Z’s triple bottom line values: people, planet and profit. What Morris is observing isn’t exclusive to Philadelphia’s zoomers, according to research by Drinks Market Analyst IWSR.
“LDA Gen Z is the generation with the highest proportion of endorsement of natural and environmentally friendly wines,” says Mariana Fletcher, head of analytics and insights at IWSR.
Go Low/No to Compete
LDA zomers are often “substitutors” and “blenders,” according to ISWR. Substitutors are those who use no- and low-ABV (no/low) products in place of full-strength beverages on certain occasions. Blenders switch between no/low and full-strength on the same occasion.
ISWR’s research shows by 2025, the U.S. no-alcohol category will grow by 30 percent. The low-alcohol category will grow by 20 percent. Wine will increasingly compete with this low/no category as it grows. However, 35 percent of those who choose no/low are choosing wine. Adding no/low products to a portfolio can attract Gen Z consumers.
Apps Are Where the Zoomers Are
Using social media effectively can also catch Gen Z’s attention. They spend 4.5 hours per day on social media, most of it on Instagram, YouTube and TikTok. Which leads to something else the youngest LDA imbibers may be turning to — apps for choosing and obtaining wine.
“The growth in wine purchase via apps is trending at or ahead of growth of online wine purchasing,” says Fletcher. “In general, LDA Gen Z consumers use apps.” While ISWR doesn’t track apps used to order wine by generation, its research shows that consumers under age 44 are more likely to use delivery apps to order wine than those who are 45 and over.
Fletcher’s final advice for those who want to capture the Gen Z audience?
“Pay attention to young LDA consumers’ product preferences and their values. Overlay that with overall market trends/drivers to boost product/brand dissemination.”
Robin Shreeves is a drinks journalist and lifestyle features writer. Her wine writing has appeared in dozens of print and online publications including Wine Enthusiast, VinePair, Courier Post, Spirited Magazine, Edible Philly, Edible Jersey, USA Today, and Drink Philly. She holds a Level 3 wine certification and Advanced Wine Speaker certification from the National Wine School. Robin is also cofounder of Thinking Outside the Bottle that offers content writing for drinks brands.