Reflections on wine marketing in America (and elsewhere)

Thursday, 22 January, 2004
Darryl Roberts
Part Two: The research on the mantra ‘Young adults don’t drink wine’
Editor’s note: part two of the thought provoking extract from a piece by Darryl Roberts, founder of Wine-X, about perceptions on who drinks wine, why and when – and the consistent belief in the mantra ‘young people don’t drink wine’. The full article can be read on their website

Boom and Bust
According to the Wine Institute, per capita wine consumption grew steadily from 1940 through 1968 at an average of about one percent per year. This can be attributed to an increase in the adult population, taking into account both domestic growth (babies born here in the states) and an increase in, what I term, ‘Euro-transplants’ or those immigrating to the United States from Europe, who consume wine regularly as part of their daily habits.

Then, from 1968 to 1986, an anomaly in per capita wine consumption occurred, not only here in the United States, but globally. During these 18 years, per capita wine consumption increased to a growth rate of about seven percent per year - seven-times the average. Then, from 1986 through 1996, per capita wine consumption fell an average of four percent a year, dropping a total of 25%.
So what happened?

Well, to understand this, we simply have to look at what happened in the mid- to late-60s. The sudden growth in wine consumption in this country, and globally, was the direct result of the Baby Boomers ‘discovering’ wine. Baby Boomers didn't want do what their parents were doing. They didn't want to drink what their parents were drinking. And their parents, for the most part, were drinking beer and spirits. So, they decided to adopt a beverage that they could call their own. And what they adopted was wine. Wine became the new thing. Wine was hip. Wine was cool. It was groovy to order Chablis or Burgundy in a restaurant. You could buy a gallon of wine for a couple of bucks and drink it every day.

So, we have a generation adopting a product and drinking it on a daily basis. That's important. But the more important and significant factor here is that Baby Boomers were drinking wine on a regular basis when they were in their 20s.

And this is significant because - and if you remember anything from this article, please remember this - people form their consumption habits (and most brand loyalties) for life in their mid- to late-20s. Meaning, if a person drinks scotch on a regular basis when they're 28 years old, they'll be drinking scotch on a regular basis when they're 58 years old. Equally, if they're not drinking scotch (or wine) on a regular basis at age 28, there's very little probability that they will be at 58.
That's the reason Baby Boomers are the major consumers of wine today. They established their consumption habits drinking wine on a regular basis while they were in their 20s. And, that's the reason we saw a big shift (almost 40%) of wine consumers moving from under 35 years old to over 35 years old between 1985 and 1996. It was simply the Baby Boomers aging.

Okay. So what? Young adults don't drink wine.

- Darryl Roberts

To read Darryl’s article in full, please visit

Issued by: Wine X Magazine