Wine industry needs to innovate for millennial consumers

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It’s become common vernacular that millenials value experiences more than possessions. Surveys have reported that over 70% of Gen Y and Millennials plan to increase their spending on experiences, stating that their experiences make them feel more connected to their communities, other people, and the world.


BlueChilli and Brancott Estate Winexplorer

Last week we were lucky to interview a new wave of entrepreneurs from the same generation. In a unanimous voice they agreed that if the wine industry is to adapt to changing consumer expectations and remain competitive for the new generation, the conversation around wine needs to change on both ends of the supply chain.

Far from viewing wine as a commodity where value is placed solely on price, wine should be reimagined as an experience that people purchase, and should be valued by the quality and skill of the winemaker that produced it.

“Whatever change that we have in this industry has to be a consumer driven event, they have to throw off the desire to find the lowest price, they must be prepared to experiment and try something which I believe many people will do when given the chance,” says Leigh Dryden, Chief Wine Officer of Decante This.

But it’s not just consumers that are shifting the industry. Richard Owens, founder & CEO of WithWine says that wine producers also need to be proactive in this shift.

“Although winemakers are not resistant to innovation and experimentation, many do not know where to start”, Richard noted. He said he is encouraged that some are taking steps forward to engage the entrepreneurial community to surface and financially support innovations that will help them keep up with consumer desires.

“Customers want to enjoy an experience – so you’re going to see more people taking greater care with regards to who they listen to for their recommendations and what they put in their mouth. Price is important, but not at the cost of experience.”

According to both entrepreneurs, to keep up with changing consumer expectations and engage with digitally savvy wine consumers, wine producers also need to embrace digital innovation as another avenue for communication and sales.

Social media is an important yet underutilised channel for wine producers to use. “Very few see and or understand the real power and value that social media in particular can deliver,” Dryden says.

One of the indicators that an industry is getting ready for innovation and disruption is an increase in self-organising groups that address particular problems. The Social Media + Wine facebook group, which has over 1,500 members already, exists to empower digital leadership in the world’s wine industry. Members share knowledge and best practices to help drive leadership in digital capability for the wine industry.

“Wine is now entering the real Knowledge Economy and the application of technology and especially apps is fast changing the balance of power and knowledge”, says Dryden.

Richard, whose company WithWine helps you discover new wines through endorsements from your social network, agrees. “There are too many wines being reviewed by too many voices with too many scores out of 100 and for the average punter who just wants a nice drop it’s too overwhelming. And it’s not personalised – there is no experience or community to connect with. So WithWine suggests wines to try using the most efficient method used in real life: the endorsements of your friends,” he says.

“The winemakers we deal with are enthusiastic about seeing their legacy endure. Everyone has to make a buck, but these people, more than anything, want to share their craft, their love, their passion with others. They also want consumers to share in that experience… and if we can create that then we’re doing a good service for the industry.”

If you have an idea that could revolutionise the way people choose and experience wine, pitch it to BlueChilli’s current innovation challenge before Monday 7 March and you could win a A$35,000 cash prize.