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The X, Y and Z of Wine

Columnist: Tim Carl
May, 2018 Issue

Tim Carl
All articles by columnist

By 2021 Generation X (born approximately between 1965 and 1979) will consume more wine than any other generational group in America. Five years later, the Millennials (born approximately between 1980 and 1994) will take over that spot, according to Silicon Valley Bank. Years later, sometime in the future, Generation Z (born approximately between 1995 and 2014) will take over the most prominent wine-drinking position.

The first of Gen Z are just entering their 20s and so, as you might expect, alcohol researchers and marketers are swooping in to find out what this next large target group is all about. The survey says that the Z’s are the first generation in memory to prefer spirits over both wine and beer. They also drink a lot less, in general, and have less interest in intoxicants of all kinds, including pot and other drugs.

The wine headlines lately have included results from a recent study that shows 51 percent of Millennials would substitute alcoholic drinks in favor of weed. The study conducted by Monocle Research in association with OutCo, a Southern California-based cannabis company, found that 34 percent of Millennials said they’d substitute pot over beer, 18 percent picked cannabis over wine and 14 percent swapped pot for spirits. To put this in perspective, 20 percent of Gen Xers and 8 percent of Baby Boomers (born approximately from 1946 to 1964) would drop their glass of ethanol-based libations for marijuana.

Gen Z

What about Gen Z when it comes to these trends? The answer is we don’t know, but I imagine
they’ll continue on with the trends of the Millennials. They will continue to reduce their consumption of all intoxicants, with their preferences spread out among all of them — wine, beer, spirits and weed.

A report from Berenberg Equity Research found that members of Generation Z preferred spirits to both wine and beer, according to Business Insider. The research surveyed more than 6,000 people ages 16 to 22 across the United States to determine the generation's approach to drinking and found that respondents in their teens and early 20s were drinking more than 20 percent less than Millennials did at the same age, with 64 percent of Gen Z respondents expecting to drink alcohol less frequently as compared to today's older generations.

“Twenty years of anti-drug, anti-smoking and anti-alcohol education has done its job: it is no longer 'uncool' to not drink or take drugs,” Berenberg analysts wrote in the beverage industry report that was published in late 2017.

Wine sales

Should the wine industry care about Gen Z? Presently, Gen Z makes up a little more than one-quarter of the total U.S. population, but in just a few years they will account for one-third with increasing influence on wine sales. But wait, you say, these kids just haven’t yet been exposed to the wine lifestyle or come and toured Wine Country, where they’ll be smitten by the wine bug like so many before. Perhaps, but the Gen Zers are unlike anything the world has yet seen.

Even more than the Millennials, they’ve grown up in times of uncertainty—post 9/11, the Great Recession, gun violence—and during changing roles within society—shifting gender identities, increased racial and cultural diversity, global access and ubiquitous technology. Theirs is a generation that doesn’t know what it means to say, “I don’t know.” For them such a statement is ludicrous because all they have to do is yell out in their homes, “Hey, Google (or Alexa or Siri), tell me who was president during World War II.” This is a generation that will compete for jobs directly with artificially intelligent robots and have to contend with an ever- increasing population and subsequent impacts on the environment. This is a generation that might be very comfortable with technology but has learned that they need to be wary, prepared and nimble if they are to survive.

Given all these pressures, I imagine that Gen Z’s predictions of drinking less alcohol might be a little premature. Of course, they might find a few moments of relaxation when they put on their virtual reality headsets. But I’m afraid that when they take off those headsets and the vibrant visions have dimmed from their memories, they might choose to share a glass of wine with their partners, recalling the good old days when robots were just robots and girls and boys were just girls and boys.




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