Millennials are the youngest legal drinkers in the United States and are not shy about sharing their alcoholic preferences. Whether they are drinking trendy craft beers, boxed wines or scotch straight up, they are doing so in a way that no other generation has before. Alcohol has become intertwined with the millennial culture, resulting in a re-imagination of the adult beverage industry. According to research conducted by Scarborough USA, 71 percent of US adults over the age of 21 say they drink alcohol (beer, hard cider, spirits, wine and wine coolers). Twenty seven percent of that general population is young adults aged 21-34.
In order to better understand US adult drinkers, we created five distinct orbits based on research conducted by Consumer Orbit, an analytics and media-planning agency based out of Kansas City. Each orbit – The Nervous Drinker, The Social Drinker, The Party Girl and The Confident Drinker – approaches drinking in a different way and requires a specific brand message. These orbits were first debuted at the eBev 2014 American Beverage Consortium in September and are in our latest report, “What’s on Tap? A Guide for Marketing to Millennial in the Adult Beverage Category.”
Below is a detailed outline of five lessons we have learned from millennial inspired trends that are impacting the adult beverage category:
Lesson 1 – Seek out Adventures
Millennials are often viewed as an impulsive generation. They are the “drop everything and change plans” kind of people and the best brands are starting to adapt to the new mentality. Our research found that 69 percent of millennials consider themselves adventurous and value brands that create experiences for them to share with their networks. The Bud Light “Up for Whatever” campaign completely aligned with the adventurous spirit of millennials and helped them to create memories that will last a lifetime.
Lesson 2 – Appreciate Creative Labeling
When buying a new product, millennials expect the full package…including the packaging. Millennials are an extremely image based generation. Now, as Instagram and GoPro are turning the Average Joe millennial into a professional photographer, the aesthetic appeal of a product is just as important as the product itself. If a millennial can’t post a picture of their new purchase on Instagram, is it even worth buying?
Lesson 3 – Value Authenticity
The recent millennial obsession with craft beers speaks to the growing millennial appreciation for authentic brands. According to 2013 research conducted by Mintel, close to 50 percent of millennials said they have consumed craft beer in the past. What is it about this market that is so enticing for millennials? Traditionally, a craft brewery makes smaller batches and is independently owned. For millennials, this makes craft beer feel more personal. Additionally, 82 percent of millennials say that ingredient transparency is a key factor in product selection. Craft breweries typically use higher-quality ingredients that produce a more flavorful palate than the traditional “American” mass-produced beer brands. Seasonal flavors and brands are also a huge draw for millennials and create a limited time environment that is highly effective when targeting the millennial demographic.
Lesson 4 – Embrace Innovation
The best brands of today are also the most agile and are the most open to innovation and product re-imagination. For the wine industry especially, it is important to think outside the bottle – literally. Free Flow Wine, a wine production company in Napa Valley, began offering kegged wine in 2009 and has since become a leader in the wine-on-tap movement. Serving wine out of a tap allows the consumer to taste the wine exactly how the wine maker intended it. By serving out of a bottle, wine has the potential to become stale and oxidized at a faster rate. Millennials are jumping on board with wine on tap because it speaks to them in a way that relates to their life stage and style.
Lesson 5 – Offer Unique Flavor Profiles
When it comes to flavor, nothing is too extreme for millennials. These young adults show the strongest preference for spicy flavors in comparison to all age groups and pride themselves on their ability to handle the heat. The latest millennial spice craze has been centered on one ingredient that many millennials are saying they cannot live without – Sriracha. Sriracha has worked itself up from a sauce brand to a full on movement taking over the CPG industry by storm (if you haven’t tried the Sriracha Lays chips yet you are missing out). Now, Sriracha is moving in on the alcoholic beverage category. Millennials are the youngest generation of legal drinkers today and their behaviors and attitudes will shape the future of the adult beverage industry. This generation operates in an entirely different way than any generation before them. These digital natives have huge networks and often partake in alcohol related activities when in the company of friends and family. Drinking as a social norm has become widely accepted and the happy hour culture of millennials is redefining the way our economy views alcohol consumption.
The future of the adult beverage industry relies on the understanding and implementation of these marketing lessons. This generation operates in an entirely different way than any generation before them. Millennials have huge networks and often partake in alcohol related activities when in the company of friends and family. Drinking as a social norm has become widely accepted and the happy hour culture of millennials is redefining the way our economy views alcohol consumption.