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Generation Y confused by wine category

Published:  29 May, 2014

Young people aged 18 - 34 - the so-called Generation Y -  may consider themselves to be tech savvy and confident, but when it comes to choosing and buying wine they remain confused and intimidated by the category.

Young people aged 18 to 34 - the so-called Generation Y -  may consider themselves to be tech savvy and confident, but when it comes to choosing and buying wine they remain confused and intimidated by the category.

There are several reasons for this, according to Lulie Halstead, chief executive of Wine Intelligence, which was commissioned by Brintex, organisers of the London Wine Fair, to conduct an online survey of 4,000 young regular wine drinkers to produce the Carpe Vinum report. "Wine lacks the consistency of beer and spirits, where consumers are more sure of what they're getting," she said.

Generation Y is more likely to shop in supermarket local formats than traditional convenience stores or independent merchants, with 95% of their wine expenditure via a multiple channel rather than a specialist wine merchant. While Gen Y admit to being intimidated by wine, on the other hand they claim to like the large range provided by supermarkets.

The on-trade is also considered off-putting by young drinkers, who when faced with a long wine list often feel uncomfortable making wine decision and feel under pressure to make good wine choices in front of their peers.

However, while they are cynical about general advertising, Generation Y responds well to any discounting or promotions, though are not keen on own label. "They have grown up with big brands, and like the security and reassurance that these provide," said Halstead.

Of the wine drinkers surveyed, four clear sub categories emerged:
* Wired Confidents - predominantly male dominated who represent 17% of the Generation Y population, but account for 23% of the volume and 29% of the spend on wine. This affluent group are the most well educated and most involved with wine, though when pressed, were often only able to name a couple of varietals and wine regions. "Their knowledge is in its infancy," said Halstead. "There is a big gap in what they want to know and what they actually know." Within this group, wine is all about status, and as a result they use price as a proxy for quality. Brands such as Wolf Blass and Campo Viejo are popular.

* Mainstream in the Making The second sub group has been dubbed the Mainstream in the Making, the largest category representing 44% of Generation Y, and accounting for 57% of the volume drunk. This is a slightly older group who are perhaps moving into permanent relationships and getting married. For this sub category, wine is firmly linked to food, and is becoming part of their routine, though they may only drink once or twice a week.

* Female Indifferents represent 30% of 18 - 34 wine drinkers, and are very limited wine consumers. They will just as readily drink other alcoholic drinks as wine, and are not engaged or interested in the wine category. They tend to have a lower disposable income than the other groups, and for them it's all about price. "As far as they are concerned wine is purely a beverage, and interchangeable with beers or cocktails," said Halstead. "They have little loyalty to the wine category." Brands which they are familiar with include Blossom Hill and Echo Falls.

* Young Kitchen Casuals make up the remaining 9% of Generation Y, and account for only 4% of the volume. "Typically, they are served wine by someone else; for them, wine is an occasional treat, but not something they would drink for themselves."

The report was sponsored by specialist bottling company, Encirc Wines, previously known as Cobevco. 

* You can find out more about how consumers react overall to buying wine alongside other alcoholic drinks in Harpers exclusively commissioned report: Demystyifying the Off-trade Consumer which looks at drinking trends for each group in every region of the country. The report can be bought for £1,250 plus VAT here or through the Insights section of