How Millennials Are Changing the Drinking Game
Millennials are a fascinating breed (I should know, I am one). Older generations are quick to slate them, but they are pushing the world forward morally and ethically by not taking anything at face value. This generation is challenging the status quo, and as they quickly become the largest group of active spenders in the world, bars, restaurants and clubs are under huge pressure to stay on the pulse with the latest shareable innovations, whether it's a cafe in a ball pit, cocktails served out of umbrellas, or high security prisons hiding an alcoholic secret. There are so many super cool bars, cafes and restaurants out there, so what makes your environment and your menu worth talking about? I'm often under the impression that Millennials are viewed as irresponsible teenagers who care about nothing but their own self-absorbed Instagram profiles, but it's simply not the case.
Millennials, Millennials, Millennials. Why should we care what they're up to?
Times, they are a-changing. Within 18 months, Millennials will represent the UK's largest spending group of consumers. They are the fastest-growing generation of customers in the marketplace, bringing the greatest lifetime value. Importantly, their attitudes and behaviours are so different to Baby Boomers - often opposite - that businesses must get their heads around this in order to understand what they want. It's time to stop shaming Millennials and get some clarity... what age groups are we talking about here?
- Gen Z, iGen, or Centennials: currently 21 and under (born 1996 and later)
- Millennials or Gen Y: currently 22 - 40 years old (born 1977 to 1995)
- Generation X: currently 41 - 52 (born 1965 to 1976)
- Baby Boomers: currently 53 - 71 (born 1946 to 1964)
- Traditionalists or Silent Generation: currently 72+ (born 1945 and before)
If 22 to 40 year olds aren't relevant to your business, then stop reading now. Not sure who your core customer base is? Head over to Google Images and type in Baby Boomers, then type in Millennials. Which group looks more like your customers?
Yoga raves... how Millennials prefer to spend their mornings
Cool versus cutting edge
As a lifestyle brand, TrueStart have always had aspirations to grow into all areas of life where healthy energy is required, whether it's at the gym, at the station or on a night out. Understanding this group of consumers is paramount, and our research has highlighted four demands that Millennials expect their food and drink brands to fulfil:
- Consistency and innovation (which are vaguely opposing)
- Health and indulgence (also traditionally conflicting requirements)
- Control (over how they are going to feel, over what’s going into their body, over where their food and drink comes from, and even over how long things take)
- Experience (there’s a reason why Instagram is so popular!)
Where gyms are concerned, these demands are covered extensively in this blog, but how do we apply them to a recreational environment? Competition has never been higher amongst bars, restaurants and night clubs. To win, they need to be cutting edge, with a talking point that does the marketing for them. There's also a major behavioural shift that bars, restaurants and nightclubs must also bear in mind if they want to enjoy and profit from the Millennial takeover...
It's no longer all about the booze
That's right, alcohol is taking a back seat. Research by Heineken last year found 75% of Millennials said they limited their alcohol intake on most of their nights out. They found the motivating factors were found to be self-awareness and staying in control. There are other reasons for this shift too; this is the first generation to have liberated the 'stiff upper lip', preferring to talk about problems rather than mask them with alcohol. Millennials are also more health-conscious and many consider the gym to be a non-negotiable part of their daily routine, which a hangover would get in the way of.
"42% of Millennials are now drinking less than they did three years ago"
As an older Millennial I can tell you that this is a gigantic shift even from when I was at University just ten years ago, when no one could care less about self control. That said, even Simon and I stopped drinking alcohol six months ago. Take it from us that there are only so many ginger beers you can drink until you are sugared out. Bars, restaurants and clubs can't simply ignore the facts, so what does this mean for them? Two things:
1. J2O, anyone?
Adult soft drinks are critical to growth. Whether you've chosen to cut out alcohol completely or just fancy a sober night out, nothing is more of a turn-off that looking over the bar at a fridge full of Coca Cola and J2O. It's fundamentally boring. We all know where we can get a Coke if we want one - absolutely anywhere.
According to MyDrinkBeverages.com, the most successful adult soft drinks "usually contain something surprising and a unique flavour, for example, spicy ginger, chilli pepper, turmeric, cayenne pepper or a very specific herbal combination. Most of the time, these drinks are carbonated, refreshing and not too intense in terms of a taste profile.” NRM reminds us that "high-end no-alcohol drinks such as house-made sodas, fresh juices and other booze-free drinks, often with health claims, are helping" to drive up sales".
Bonus points if the drink looks amazing. Head over to Instagram if you need a quick reminder of how much Millennials need to show everyone what they’re drinking.
Important note: don't mistakenly believe you'll win by catering for the masses, ignoring the growing number of people who choose to drink less alcohol. Millennials are an inclusive bunch, and will opt to meet up somewhere that works for everyone in their group.
2. Quality over quantity
Alcoholic drinks also need to up their game. Alcohol might be taking a back seat, but it's still firmly strapped in. The difference is that Millennials are far less likely to get smashed on a night out than their parents' generation, and instead they're after quality over quantity. Millennials might still want alcohol (albeit less), but don't make the mistake of thinking a fancy gin and tonic or pint of craft beer is going to cut the mustard (even Wetherspoons offer these now). These guys want experience and healthy indulgence, more coconut milk martini than piña colada.
Millennial customer + Bog Standard Cocktail = 😡 👎
While only 27% of Baby Boomers equate price with quality, over 40% of Millennials do. They're happy with spending the money as long as it feels like a high quality experience rather than a commodity. Instagrammability is a great measure of this.
"Bars need to ask themselves honestly how cool their drinks menu looks as it's basically an exact indicator of how successful it's going to be."
Remember the cardinal rule, "The more photo-friendly your food, the better”.
Millennials love to talk, in "real life" as well as across every social media platform you can think of. Bars are already pretty cool, so what are they going to talk about? The one that's cutting edge. The one that has something new.
How can you meet their demands?
The reason we’ve done this research is because we wanted to take TrueStart out of the home and into the world, where it's needed most. We wanted to release a product backed by clear trends, that truly meets the needs of the soon-to-be largest group of active spenders in the country. We believe that TrueStart Cold Brew Coffee ticks all the boxes for the Millennial consumer, whether they fancy a healthy energy drink, an alcoholic drink or a grown-up soft drink. It's already making waves as the coolest new drink in town and is a seriously versatile investment for bars, restaurants and nightclubs.
Cold Brew Coffee is growing incredibly fast in the US and is gaining real traction even here in the UK, despite the weather! Starbucks have said that cold coffee beverages will account for half of their revenue within 5 years, which is a huge statement. That’s where they see the gap and the growth. Traditional coffee has stagnated and anyone who fearfully sticks to their guns and relies on it completely whilst expecting revenue growth should not expect good news, especially in a Millennial-heavy environment.
As an adult soft drink, TrueStart Cold Brew Coffee is a real winner. You can pull coffee away from the crappy section of your menu and into the funky soft drinks. It's a healthy, natural energy boost (we all want to keep up with the party!) and to top it off, Millennials resonate with the brand across all aspects of their life.
We've truly upped the cocktail and mixer game, Jägerbombs and vodka Red Bulls are so last year. You're serving Fever Tree, not Schweppes, so why is your coffee offering so bland? Even your regular espresso martini pales into insignificance in the presence of a cold brew coffee cocktail... The drink is a completely unique mixer for almost every spirit you can think of, from rum to tequila. The drink makes a great stand-alone chaser or you can get really creative and produce a whole menu of delights from this one investment.
Pouring a TrueStart Cold Brew Martini on tap... the pinnacle of cool
And what about those 4 critical demands? How does TrueStart Cold Brew Coffee fit in with those, in a recreational environment?
- Consistency and innovation - there's no arguing that coffee in a can in a bar is innovative. We'll take that over the dusty coffee machine in the corner any day! Consistency also goes without saying, there's theatre without the bartender having to worry about becoming a barista.
- Health and indulgence - naturally healthy with zero milk, sugar, fat, carbs or calories. You get the creamy indulgence without adding cream-based liquids, saving calories whilst looking cool and tasting epic.
- Control - better for you, for farmers and for the planet. This drink has full transparency down to the caffeine content, is 100% natural with no sugar or caffeine crash, not to mention ethically sourced by a cool British brand. Ticking all the boxes!
- Experience - TrueStart pours, cascades and settles just like a Guinness. It's a real talking point, and looks great on Instagram.
Innovate or lose
It continually surprises me how many companies don't segment their customers by generation, which is the simplest way to distinguish (and generalise) behaviours, which in turn allows them to ensure they're meeting the demands of the correct cohort for them. It surprises me even more how many bars are still firmly focussed on the Baby Boomers as their top priority. They need to be investing in the future, because Millennials will provide the vast majority of their revenue going forward if they are not already.
I speak to bars, hotels, restaurants and cafes who are doing nothing different to their competition down the road, and nothing really different compared with their menu 5 years ago. This is despite the fact that they tell me their customers are mostly 25-40.
I’m writing this blog in the hope that more companies will recognise the need to really understand who their customer is becoming, and invest accordingly in the future.
Millennial customer + Cold Brew Coffee = 😍 📷 🎉
Above all, I’m writing this blog to challenge perception on what is risky and what’s not. Is it a risk to invest in something new, on the new kid on the block? If your customers are of a generation that expects innovation, then the risk is undoubtedly in standing still. Millennials are here and spending, whether you're ready or not.