The Voice of the Millennial Consumer

The Millennial panel at the 2017 VIBE Conference.

If those who came of age during the Great Depression are The Greatest Generation, Millennials may come to be known as The Confounding Generation. It seems like you can’t click on a study these days that isn’t somehow focused on understanding this demographic. Technomic’s Donna Hood Crecca and Dave Henkes shined light on Millennials during the 2017 VIBE Conference in San Diego.

Let’s start with the stats. According to Crecca and Henkes, Millennials:

  • were born between 1977 and 1992;
  • are between 25 and 40 years of age;
  • make up 22% of our population.

Additionally, 41% of Millennials are from ethnic minority groups. They command about $200B in spending power, which may sound like a lot but is actually less than other demographic cohorts. This generation’s lifetime spending is estimated to be around $10 trillion. This is a large, diverse generation experiencing a rise in incomes and changes in lifestyle.

We also know that Millennials:

  • have adopted technology as a way of life;
  • seek to make a difference in the world, embracing corporate and social responsibility;
  • recognize and respect diversity;
  • try to balance in-person and online interactions;
  • and are sometimes perceived to have taken the slow road to growing into adults.

Of course, someone who grew up towards the end of the ‘70s is different than someone who grew up in the ‘80s, and they’re certainly different than those who grew up at the start of the ‘90s. Older Millennials (those between the ages of 32 and 40) account for 54% of this generation, and they behave more like Generation X when it comes to careers and maturity. Millennials as a whole over-index beverage orders, and 52% of this demographic agree that adult beverages play an important role in destination decisions. That 52% represents 37% of the overall US population, and Millennials drive on-premise visits:

  • Fast casual restaurants: 38%
  • Casual restaurants: 50%
  • Fine dining restaurants: 33%
  • Hotels/lodging: 50%
  • Independent restaurants: 47%
  • Bars: 75%
  • Nightclubs: 71%
  • Other recreation: 49%

Millennials have driven several alcohol beverage trends, as those who work in this business know. Flavored vodka, the rise in popularity of sangria, sweet wines, affordable wines, Irish whiskey, tequila, luxury vodka, and Fireball are all favorites of Millennials. And who doesn’t know that this generation is behind the meteoric rise of craft beer?

It wasn’t all statistics during Crecca’s and Henkes’ VIBE presentation. To better understand Millennials the two brought a focus group of 6 members of this generation onto the stage with them, three women and three men. The information the panelists shared about their behaviors and habits was not only valuable, it was actionable.

Just about all 6 of the panelists concurred that they order an adult beverage almost every time they go out. Four of the 6 said they order alcohol beverages every time they go out, one said they order such a drink about 80% of the time, and 5 of the 6 said they pregame. Speaking of pregaming, price isn’t the only driving factor for this behavior. The panel also pregames before going out to ease social anxiety, and because of their perception that they won’t be able to find their favorite alcohol beverages at their destination.

The latter explanation for pregaming makes it clear that beverage programs influence Millennial destination decisions and loyalty heavily. One panelist said beverage programs are “very important” to them, and another revealed that in this day and age they assume that wherever they go will have developed a drinks program. Such programs are so important to one of the panelists that they said they research beverage menus for up to one week before deciding on a destination. Limited time offers play an important role for Millennials. One panelist enjoys discovering LTOs and said that he wished they would show up on menus more often. Adjectives that describe LTOs and regular beverage menu items influence at least one of the panelist’s decisions. However, she will also ask her server for wine recommendations. Half of the panelists trust their server to make suggestions, but all of them ask their bartender and server to learn more about menu items. Almost all of them trust the menu; one vacillated.

The panel also revealed:

  • that one of the Millennials enjoys trying new things because they know they can fall back on their standby if they don’t like something;
  • the perception that craft products are higher quality than mainstream;
  • one panelist who will make a retail purchase if they enjoy a product on-premise;
  • that at least one panelist is swayed by marketing;
  • that contrary to what some may feel is of utmost importance to Millennials, none of the panelists need on-premise destinations to have organic or sustainable products on their menus.