Industry urged to go after young market

The wine industry has been urged to actively court the young adult market, or miss out on a generation of consumers forever.

Speaking at a recent International Wine and

Spirit Competition (IWSC) seminar in London,

publisher of America’s Wine X

magazine Darryl M Roberts cautioned the

industry against waiting for young adults to

come to wine. Wine X is aimed at the

youth market.

‘Baby boomers embraced wine culture in a way

the next generations have not,’ Roberts said.

‘In the States, per capita consumption of wine

has fallen 20% since 1985. Today’s 21-34 year

olds are drinking 51% more alcohol than those

over 35, and spending US$5bn (€5bn) in the

process – but it isn’t on wine.’

‘People establish their consumption habits for

life during their mid-late 20s,’ he said. ‘We

must integrate wine with the whole lifestyle

portfolio, not isolate it as a separate choice.’

Roberts’ apprehension is supported by data

gathered last month by Wine Intelligence and

Young’s Brewers. While young adults in the

UK are consuming alcohol at a faster growing

rate than the population overall, 18-24 year

olds favour lager, spirits and pre-mixed drinks

over wine. Among 25-34 year olds wine is

consumed, but on average just once a week

and principally at home the survey found.

However, not everyone was sounding caution

against letting the young market look after

itself.

‘My biggest fear is dumbing down,’ Michael

Cox, md of Negociants UK, said. ‘The young

must be intrigued into wine, not tricked. We

must make wine a real part of the good life

culture and concentrate on the part it plays in

civilised behaviour. The wine industry should

patiently wait for young adults to attain their

rites of passage.’

The fact that 48% of 18-34 years surveyed

expect to be drinking more wine as they get

older lends weight to Cox’s argument. For all

other alcoholic drinks, respondents expected to

be drinking the same or less.

In the UK the figures are not as gloomy as they

are in the States. Wine is growing in popularity

among young drinkers, particularly women who

are forecast to drink 6.2% more wine in 2004

than they did in 1999. Overall, wine

consumption is predicted to be up by 4.1%.

Screwcaps, easy to pronounce wine names,

smaller bottles and pub/bar pricing were

generally agreed to be more important than

whacky packaging in reaching younger buyers.

‘Quality and price are key,’ Matthew Dickinson

of Thierry’s Wine Services said.

According to survey results, young adults are

most influenced by price and familiarity when

choosing wine, with country of origin and

recommendation not far behind. Label design

was relatively unimportant to those surveyed.

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