Sips & Stories Snare Millennial Wine Drinkers

Washington State University professor shares research; online program launches

by Jane Firstenfeld
wine millennials sales research washington
New research from Washington State University suggests that offering sips can lead to bottle purchases with millennial consumers.

Richland, Wash.—To increase wine sales to millennial drinkers, restaurateurs are advised to train servers and offer sips, according to research by Rhonda Hammond, a professor at Carson College of Business on Washington State University (WSU) Tri-Cities campus.


“Millennials are going to take over the world, but they bring so much to the table. They have traveled, and they want authenticity and quality,” Hammond told Wines & Vines while summarizing her research. Raised by Baby Boomers, who remain enthusiastic wine drinkers, this youngest generation of alcohol consumers typically learned from their parents.

Hammond’s early culinary interests brought her to the wine industry, and she is a certified sommelier. The recent research garnered 390 surveys from self-selected respondents (57% millennials) from social media and university sources. They answered open-ended questions. Hammond’s personal observation leads her to believe, “They want good value. (They) think they’re poor, but they want to dine out. They have a strong desire to learn more, and a strong desire to have fun.”

Hammond’s biggest takeaway from the survey is that there are not huge differences among the generations in terms of wine selection. Peer influence and friends’ recommendations are important, but so are well-organized wine lists and well-trained servers, she said.

She recommended that restaurants need a good wine-by-the-glass program so guests of any age can sample the goods and develop their own tastes. And for those who are interested, “Just provide a sip. This can be huge. A taste is a big sell. This can help them make the decision and pull the trigger,” she said.

A lot of bad wine is sold “by the label,” she noted. Buyers may be sucked into a story, but only if there is a story behind it. One of Hammond’s Ph.D. students did a study looking into the growing acceptance of wines on tap. Millennials are adventurous and are buying into the culture—including craft beer and classic cocktails. Again Hammond stressed, “Let them taste it. They are open to anything fun.”

Millennials consume more servings per sitting than previous generations. “Think about your restaurant bottom line. Train the servers to engage the guests” to bring in repeat business. Millennials, she said, are not afraid of a $20 per bottle at retail.

New WSU online wine business certificate
Carson College launched its first online “module” for wine business in January, with enrollment of about 15 students from as far away as Manilla. The non-credit certificate program includes six modules developed and taught by WSU business faculty with interests in wine business, as well as industry professionals with unique expertise in wine business marketing, financial management and specific legal, compliance and trademark issues.

Students can enroll in individual segments or in the entire certificate package. Each segment is taught by a different instructor. Some of the current students are considering a career change, some already are in the wine industry, including one winemaker, Hammond said.

The program includes two weekends at the college. Students presented proposals at the first “residential experience” held March 4 and 5. Students must pay the costs for their housing and travel expenses, but the school accommodated the student from the Philippines with a video feed.
The entire package costs $4,995; individual segments are $995. To learn more click here

Currently no comments posted for this article.