Move over, wine snobs. Millennials are disrupting wine marketing. The age group is outguzzling baby boomers in terms of wine consumption: 36 percent of wine drinkers in the U.S. are millennials versus 34 percent of baby boomers, according to the Wine Market Council. And to appeal to these millennials, wine brands are busy crafting innovative packaging, clever labels and more approachable messaging.
Compared with older generations, millennials are more likely to drink wine at least once a week, noted Beth Bloom, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel. "Forty-nine percent of millennials say the wine they drink says a lot about them, compared to 36 percent of the general population," she said.
And they're embracing wines in cans, like ManCan, whose target consumers are millennials and soccer dads. The can makes wine easier to drink at poolside, at baseball games or while picnicking, and it's available in red and white blends, to appeal to younger drinkers who might not know a cabernet from a chardonnay. It also comes at an affordable price point: $16.99 for a four-pack, and bears the straightforward tagline: "Shut up and drink."
"We're trying to completely eliminate barriers of entry to drinking wine," said Graham Veysey, founder of ManCan. "Quality, price and story—those three things will help you appeal to this age group."
Another wine in a can brand, Underwood, produces videos that poke fun at wine snobs. Men in tuxedoes carefully sniff and swirl wine, saying things like, "I'm getting strong notes of Axl Rose, with a hint of heirloom purple carrots." The video ends with the tagline, "Wine doesn't have to be this hard. Pinkies down."
"Twenty- and thirty-somethings want what's new and unique," said Heather Wallberg, marketing manager at Union Wine Co., which makes Underwood wine. "We're bringing wine to people who want to try it but haven't because of all of that pomp and circumstance." The strategy seems to be paying off. Underwood produced 85,115 cases in 2014 and is projected to produce 173,810 cases in 2016.
Rebel Coast Winery takes a similar tack. Its wines come in traditional glass bottles but have names like Sunday Funday and Reckless Love, which has a mustache on its label. One of its slogans is: "Pairs well with ignoring your parents' advice."
The labels help Rebel Coast Winery stand out on the shelf, said founder and CEO Chip Forsythe. "The customer that we built a cult following with had been drinking the typical wines with labels with cursive on them, 'Chateau du something,' and people are bored with it. They want to try new stuff," he said.
He added, "When you're walking down the wine aisle, nobody knows what the hell is going on. There are thousands of different bottles to choose from. People want to buy something that looks fun, and looks cool, and we've been successful because of that." The Sonoma, Calif.-based winery, whose sales grew to $1.2 million in 2015 from $210,000 in 2013, projects sales of $2.5 million this year.
Millennials also have embraced rosé as an alternative to traditional reds and whites. Over the past five years, rosé has gained in volume by 48 to 52 percent in the U.S. year over year, said Pierrick Bouquet, co-founder of Pinknic and La Nuit en Rosé, two festivals dedicated to rosé held in New York, and New York, Los Angeles and Miami, respectively, whose average attendee is 32 years old. "Rosé isn't too complicated, and it's a perfect product to put in a can," he said.
The Drop is one such brand that's having success with its rosé in a can—or, as it's sometimes called, "brosé," or rosé for bros. The company's Twitter and Instagram accounts are called That Rosé Life, to celebrate a laid-back attitude that rosé drinkers typically embody, said Alexis Beechen, co-founder of The Drop. "We wanted to put a flag in the ground and say that wine should be enjoyed. It doesn't have to be stressful."
This story first appeared in the August 22, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.
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