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Wine Not: Lessons in Shifting a Luxury Product for the Millennial Market

They’re young, thirsty, and ready to pop the cork—but Millennials aren’t drinking wine like their parents did. Boomers value the snobbiness of wine, while Millennials care more about authenticity and adventure than luxury, looking to spend an average of $10-12 per bottle. But Millennials are on the brink of outspending their Boomer predecessors, and will be the dominant group in purchasing power by 2017. Suddenly, luxury products that in the past might have lured consumers and built their brands around exclusivity and lavishness need to prepare for a new generation of consumers who aren’t necessarily looking for an elite-only experience. As wine importer Melissa Saunders was quoted, “[T]his generation is blowing all [the pretense] out of the water. They don’t care about the pretentiousness of a wine, they want something that is authentic and speaks to them. This is a huge marketing opportunity.” The industry is shifting to serve this generation who represents one third of core drinkers, and in doing so, they’re forging new paths in how a previously luxury-focused market can creatively evolve to open up to a consumer with drastically different purchasing values.

New startups are seeing great potential in Millennials as the next generation of winos. Uproot Wines targets the affluent segment of Gen Y with minimalist labeling that graphically represents flavor notes and original blends in limited quantities. Club W sources lower-priced wines using big data to appeal to the “Palate Profile” of Millennials who can’t afford to buy top-tier wines but still want a regular glass of the good stuff. Meanwhile, lower-end retailers are getting into the wine game to attract Millennials who have a little bit more to spend. 7-Eleven recently added “ultra-premium” wines for an average of $19.99 a bottle at 700 locations, and for the holidays will be putting bottles for as much as $54.99 a bottle on their shelves. Other brands are taking the opportunity to think outside the wine box in advertising, forgoing stuffy and bland commercials for more scandalous and humorous fare to appeal to younger drinkers. SLO Down Wines made headlines for their tongue-in-cheek Sexual Chocolate commercials, which outlined the ways their product pairs with threesomes and drugs–a far cry from the traditional wine spot. Here are five other innovative ways that wine is going from highbrow to Millennial-friendly:

1. Moët & Chandon Vending Machines

Ever wish your holiday shopping could be done with a bottle of booze in hand? Moët & Chandon is making dreams come true, providing a mini-champagne vending machine in the holiday gift section of Selfridges in the U.K. While the vending machine itself looks glossy and high-end, the price is fairly accessible with each bottle costing $29, allowing for an entry-level consumer to partake in the bubbly. Consumers have been posting photos of the vending machine to social media, evidence that the brands’ attempt to change its brand image and interact with fans on Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter is working. Tapping into mainstream ways to sell a previously snooty item could be the playful way to show Millennial consumers that not only is the brand on their level, it wants to be where they are.

2. The Essential Scratch-N-Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert

Let’s face it: wine varieties can be confusing. As Millennials enter the wine drinking market, they face rows upon rows filled with different wine varieties but little direction for what type they would like. Blindly choosing wines based on their labels or descriptions isn’t a foolproof way for Millennials to understand what they enjoy in wine, so The Essential Scratch-N-Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert takes wine selection down to their beginner level and encourages young adult drinkers to become more informed. The scratch-n-sniff book is a playful way for Millennials to learn about wine, taking the nostalgia of childhood and applying it to a sophisticated market. Millennials enjoy becoming experts and sharing facts that others may not know, so giving them the tools to learn while having fun is a great way to engage and help them make future purchase decisions.

3. Friends Fun Wine in a Can

In the last decade, preference for beer has fallen 30% among Millennials ages 18-29, while preference for wine has increased 10%. There is a distinct generational shift happening as Millennials favor the sweet and smooth taste of wine compared to beer, which is often bitter and dry, but beer is still the go-to drink for college-age Millennials because beer cans make it easy for them to drink on-the-go, whether at a house party, a tailgate, or a music festival. Going the way of energy drinks, juices, sodas, and beer, Friends Fun Wine in a Can aims to make wine drinking “more accessible” and just plain easier, eliminating the need for glasses and bottle openers. Wine in a Can contains half the calories of a regular glass, a reasonable price tag at $3 per can, and a variety of sweetly delicious flavors like White and Peach Moscato, and Red and White Sangria. Though some reviewers from HuffPost likened the drinks to “adult Capri Sun,” younger drinkers might just be thrilled at that comparison, often remarking that an alcoholic version of Capri Sun would make drinking 10x easier and more fun. Friends Fun Wine in a Can delivers just that, taking the mindset of beer drinking and applying it to wine. Using something common that resonates with Millennials but incorporating new ideas is an ideal way to test out products, especially when the product contains the best aspects of things that they favor.

4. The Drync App

We can’t talk about appealing to Millennial consumers without including tech and smartphones in some way. Not surprisingly, several apps have been developed to make wine shopping and drinking a digitally-enhanced experience. Drync is one app that has found great success by allowing users to “scan and buy the wine [they] love.” Drynk turns your phone into an instant-access portal to all information about the wine you are drinking. After simply snapping a picture of the label of the bottle with the phone’s camera, the app taps into a database of 1.7 million different wines and provides instant information about where the bottle is from, a user rating, and suggestions from top sommeliers—so even wine-newbies can feel like an expert. Drync even allows users to buy bottles through the service, as well as save and track previous favorites. Adding this mobile element to a traditional real-world experience puts it in a Millennial consumers’ comfort zone, and using that mobile tool to help educate and give increased access to the product only helps to demystify it.

5. Naked Wines Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing is a concept that gets applied to a lot today, but this might be the first time it’s ever been used to sell wines. Naked Wine has 150,000 customers who pay $40 a month to the brand. They’re a customer-funded e-retailer that sells wines at wholesale prices to their members, forgoing the middle-man (like other disruptive companies we’ve covered in the past) to help 130 independent winemakers get their product to consumers who are interested in authenticity and a different wine experience. The disruptive approach to selling to Millennials has worked with other high-end products in the past, and might be the best way to get the generation to open their wallets for a previously inaccessible experience.