From the New York Times this morning, a cautionary piece from wine writer Eric Asimov:
"The American wine industry believes it has a problem: millennials.
"More specifically, it’s the fact that aging baby boomers — currently the prime market for wine — are nearing retirement age, the time of life when consumerism typically declines.
Millennials, the generation that began to come of age after the turn of the century, have given no indication that they are poised to step in. They buy much less wine than boomers, and the wine industry has not done enough to entice them to become regular consumers.
"In his annual State of the U.S. Wine Industry report, presented last month, Rob McMillan, an executive vice president of Silicon Valley Bank in Santa Clara, Calif., and a longtime analyst of the American wine market, issued a forceful warning that a day of reckoning was coming. 'In prior reports, we noted that the falling interest in wine among younger consumers, coupled with the encroaching retirement and decreasing wine consumption of baby boomers, poses a primary threat to the business,' Mr. McMillan said. 'That issue has yet to be addressed or solved, and the negative consequences are increasingly evident.'
"Sales of American wine could plummet by 20 percent in the next decade, he said."
There are some economic issues at work, Asimov writes, lack the fact that really good wine can be a lot more expensive than it was 20 years ago, and millennials tend to have less disposable income at the moment. There also is a perceived lack of diversity and social consciousness in the wine business that some millennials find to be off-putting.
Asimov goes on:
"Mr. McMillan also asserted that millennial consumers are more concerned with social justice and with health and environmental issues, including climate change. 'A brand’s social values are increasingly connected to a consumer’s decision to purchase particular products, including wine,' he said.
"Among his recommendations, he suggests that producers list their ingredients and offer nutritional data, like calories per serving, and that they be clear about their social values, their efforts to address environmental concerns and their strategies for lowering their carbon footprints.
"'The strange reality is that it would be easy to start talking about wine in an evolved way and to reference the many things that are already a part of what we do to produce wine, and that would resonate with younger consumers,' Mr. McMillan said. 'Yet as an industry we are not doing it'."
Asimov argues that while some are calling for a "got milk' style marketing program to raise wine's profile, the industry actually needs something more:
"In my little corner of the wine world, I see younger people drawn to natural wines and to traditional styles. These sorts of wines meet many of the concerns that Mr. McMillan expressed, and have demonstrated their appeal.
"The winemakers do that by showing their concern with the environment by farming conscientiously, sticking with traditional ingredients and processes and, increasingly, I hope, by addressing social justice and equity issues that are as apparent in natural wine as anywhere else.
"It’s not just a question of perception, it’s a matter of action, of demonstrating a commitment to change and to making the effort. Slogans will not paper over a failure to do that."