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Growth in US wine consumption slowing as millennials turn away

Published:  16 January, 2019

The steady growth of the US wine market may be coming to an end as the frequency of consumption among younger consumers declines, according to a new report from Wine Intelligence.

The US Landscapes 2019 report, which analysed usage of and attitude to wine in the world’s largest market, found “significant change in the behaviour of wine drinkers under the age of 35”, with a marked drop in the frequency of consumption of wine and a fall of engagement among this age group.

Highlighting the trend, the report estimates that 84 million US adults over the age of 21 currently drink wine at least once a month, representing 35% of all adults if legal drinking age.

The estimate for 2015 was 88 million, with the fall accounted for by a decline in the proportion of all adults drinking alcohol, coupled with a decrease in frequency of consumption by those that do.

This fall is against a backdrop of an increase in total adult population, but a shifting age demographic. This has seen an increase of the number of drinkers over 55 by 5 million between 2015 and 2018, but a decrease in the number of under 55 drinkers by almost 10 million, with 3 million of those falling away being under 35 – the millennial generation.

The report suggests that wine knowledge, as measured by awareness of grape varieties, regions and brands, has decreased among all age groups, but also that this decrease is most prominent among 21-35 year olds, with confidence in wine falling away.

On the upside, it was found that millennials “remain most likely to spend above the average on wine to drink at home and dominate the high spenders in the on-premise”, with such consumers also more likely to respond well to innovation, being prepared to experiment and seek out differentiation.

Perhaps pointing the way ahead for growing trends in the UK, the US millennial repertoire remains broader than that of older generations and new formats, such as wine in cans, along with lower alcohol and organic wines, are driving engagement.

“As a category we need to realise we are in a pitched battle for the hearts and minds of the next generation. They are becoming less connected with alcohol generally, for a variety of health and lifestyle reasons,” commented Lulie Halstead, CEO of Wine Intelligence.

“When they do choose alcohol, they now have diverse and interesting offers in spirits, beer and cider. This report should be seen as a wake-up call to our industry’s biggest and most exciting wine market.”