US wine consumers are not that different whether they’re from Oakland or Ithaca, though geography and the broader economic and demographic trends at a State level tends to influence behavior
When it comes down to it, wine drinkers are not that different from each other. For most people, in most markets, wine represents a combination of confusion, pleasure, intimidation and social status. Sure, those attributes will vary for person to person, and they buy different wines, from different types of stores and at different price points, depending on where they live and what’s available. Fundamentally however, human beings are, well, just human beings. We are just wine drinkers after all, wherever we might live or come from.
This fundamental common denominator holds for wine drinkers across the US, the world’s largest market for wine. From the perspective of consumers’ overall relationship with the category of wine, a higher spending, involved wine consumer in Oakland, CA for example approaches wine in a similar way to a high spending, involved wine drinker in Ithaca, NY.
True, our notional Californian will more likely be found drinking a wine from their home state and our Ithacan drinker might opt for a Finger Lakes wine, but that comes down to local accessibility and availability. And because US states are political and economic entities, with contrasting size and population, there are some interesting and strategically valuable differences in terms of the types of wine drinkers based in different states.
Half of all dollars spent on wine in retailers, cellar doors, online and the on-premise is spent by residents of just 6 states: California, Florida, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois. Within these States, California remains the most attractive wine market in the US, with just over $1 in every $6 spent on wine in the US originating from the pocketbooks of Californians and 15% of all US regular wine drinkers resident in the State.
So what differences are there at the State level in terms of who is drinking wine in the US? In honour of the current award season in the TV and movie industry, we have some awards to announce.
For our first award of the ‘Most youthful wine drinking State’, Texas wins the prize with the youngest population of wine drinkers, 40% of whom are aged 35 and under. California comes in 2nd with 1/3rd of drinkers under 35. These younger drinkers in California are the drivers of premium wine in the State. There is one big difference amongst Californian wine drinkers however, and that is in terms of gender. 21% of regular wine drinkers are men aged under 35 whereas only 12% of wine drinkers in California are women in the same age group. In case you were wondering, Californian wine drinkers also have a stronger penchant for Tequila compared with wine drinkers in other parts of the US.
The picture changes in Florida and New York. Florida wins the title of the ‘Most mature wine drinking population’, with 47% of drinkers in the Sunshine State aged 55 and over. In New York the ‘more mature’ drinker population accounts for 41% of regular wine drinkers, and in contrast with California, it is these older drinkers who are driving the premium market in New York.
And who wins the next prize for ‘Drinkers most confident about wine’? That goes to California again. Interestingly, their wine knowledge is exactly the same as drinkers in all of the other key States and exactly the same as the national average. The increased wine confidence amongst Californians appears to be driven by the opportunity to experience wineries first-hand on a more regular basis, building up confidence through experience. The fact that Californian drinkers are more wine confident yet not more wine knowledgable suggests that winery visits and wine tourism is more successful when centring on memory and experience rather than more formal wine education.
And the final prize to be awarded ‘The highest spending wine drinkers’. This final prize is jointly awarded to Californians and New Yorkers. Californians are the highest spenders overall, and particularly for more formal wine drinking occasions. However, New Yorkers spend up when it comes to more casual occasions, which is in part driven by relative price points, particularly in the on-premise.
As with all things consumer behaviour, the evidence points to the somewhat annoying duality of both similarity and difference. While the overall category relationship and drivers remain consistent, the demographics of those who are driving the markets and in particular, the premium end of the market, does fluctuate between States.