Representing some $200 billion in annual spending power, the millennial buyer holds unlimited appeal for marketers. As businesses shift their focus from Generation X to millennial shoppers, many industries are grappling with the changing needs of today’s buyer. Nowhere is this more evident than the beverage industry, where wineries and distributors are scrambling to understand how to most effectively market alcohol to these consumers.

Understanding Evolving Perceptions

Historically, much of the American public has seen wine as a celebratory drink to be enjoyed at special events or alongside a decadent meal. According to AdWeek, 7 out of 10 adults do not drink wine regularly. And yet, some of the industry’s largest players are witnessing a notable increase in consumption patterns as millennials eschew beer in favor of wine. Unlike their parents and grandparents, however, wine isn’t viewed as an upscale drink, but rather, a relatable beverage to be enjoyed daily.

Wine producers have responded with gusto, producing more affordable wines and embracing the adventuresome spirit of millennial consumers. This shift is partly responsible for making the United States the largest wine consumer (volume) in the world, replacing France for the first time.

Rethinking the Marketing Message

Studies have shown millennials are relatively brand loyal, eager to engage with their favorite companies via social media, and increasingly turning to the web to make buying decisions. These trends greatly impact how wine marketers need to think about selling their wares. The product itself is also evolving, as producers turn to single-use glasses, packages, boxes, and even cans. Millennials have continually demonstrated their willingness to embrace new ideas in the world of wine, in stark opposition to older buyers who have shown strong resistance to leaving the glass bottle behind.

Preparing for Increased Demand

The Wine Market Council reports that wine-drinking millennials are increasing consumption year over year, and while millennials only represent 29% of the total market, they consume 34% of the product. The consumption increase has been so notable that some within the industry feared an impending shortage in late 2013. While shortage fears have largely been assuaged, many industry players feel the numbers will continue ticking upwards, creating plenty of movement within the brewing and distribution spaces.

For small wineries and distributors looking to ride the wave of the future, it’s important to carefully monitor how millennials are consuming wine and make changes accordingly. As demand rises, more businesses will likely attempt to enter the industry, increasing competition and giving consumers even more options to consider. To keep sales strong, wine sellers need to consider embracing alternatives to the expensive bottles of yesteryear, making room for lower-end products that are accessible for millennials looking for a refreshing beverage to enjoy with a burger and fries.