Raising a glass — or rather, the purchasing of whatever goes in that glass — varies from generation to generation. This is also the case for the drinking habits of millennials vs. baby boomers.
According to PYMNTS research, millennials of drinking age drank 42 percent of the wine that was drunk in 2015, with the average millennial downing just over three glasses in a sitting. Before judgements are made, baby boomers did take care of 30 percent of all wine consumed in the U.S.
Other experts in the space agree.
“In terms of beverage choice, millennials are drinking far more wine than their older counterparts, consuming nearly 160 million cases in 2015 alone,” said Tina Hay, CEO of Napkin Finance. “When they’re not sipping an interesting vintage, millennials are picking up a high-quality vodka or a seasonal craft beer.”
This millennials vs. baby boomers distinction is a clear departure between generations. Perhaps the stories around beverages weren’t available. Perhaps different regulations or beverage innovation wasn’t established yet. Either way, millennials want their beverages to speak to them.
“Unlike older generations, millennials are more focused on the content of their beverages and the story their favorite brands tell than they are on price. They are less likely to buy mass-marketed beers, like Budweiser, or bottom-shelf liquor and more likely to look for organic or local products,” Hay added.
As for how much a generation is willing to spend on a bottle or a case, it may surprise you that millennials don’t seem to care, despite the facts that millennials aren’t fans of grocery stores, they’re bargain- and research-savvy when it comes to big-ticket items like diamond rings, they like to peruse flight options before purchasing and luxury sales haven’t been big winners this year. Turns out, price doesn’t seem to be hindering millennials’ choice when it comes to purchasing wine. More than 17 percent of all millennial wine drinkers bought a bottle costing over $20 in the past month, compared to 10 percent of all drinkers and 5 percent of baby boomers.
“Whether it’s beer, wine or liquor, the thing that differentiates millennials from older generations is their focus on quality above all else. While they still look for good deals, millennials are happy to spend a bit more on a craft beer if it means a small-batch beverage with high-quality ingredients,” said Hay. “Millennials choose products — including booze — that they feel are an extension of their personalities, so they look for unique, well-made, authentic beverages.”
Research shows that millennials seem to make an investment — both in a monetary and educational aspect — in a variety of wines to pair with their personalities and interests. At least 30 percent of wine-drinking millennials reported purchasing over the course of three months some amount of wine from both American wineries and international countries, including Argentina, Chile, Germany and South Africa. And apparently, they’re happy to make those purchases.
“According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data for 2013, millennials are spending slightly more than boomers on booze but not by much,” said Hay. “On average, those surveyed under the age of 35 reported spending of about 1–1.2 percent of their annual income on alcohol, while those between the ages of 45 and 64 spend 0.8–0.9 percent.”
One thing to note is that reports show that baby boomers are spending less as they age. Research shows that, when baby boomers were at the age of their current millennial counterparts, they drank more, too. Tapering off may come with age, discipline and perhaps common life changes.
Research shows that alcohol [and drug] use is typically at its height — no matter what generation — in the early 20s and then starts to decline. And that tends to make sense, according to researchers. As post-college life kicks in, over time, there are varying reasons for imbibing.
“For older generations, purchasing fine wines or top-shelf liquors — or simply drinking for enjoyment rather than intoxication — were choices that came along with age,” said Hay.
That said, researchers say millennials’ pickier choosing outlook for beverages may reflect a change over time in terms of alcohol purchasing data.
“Given that millennials already choose quality and taste over price (trends which typically are associated with maturity), there is no telling whether or not age will play a role in their spending habits,” said Hay. “Since millennials have acquired a taste for high-end booze early on, it is likely that the current trends will continue for years to come.”