As members of Generation Z have started to reach legal drinking age, a question has emerged – will they be wine lovers? When the New York Times declared that Millenials aren’t drinking enough wine, concerns grew that the emerging Gen Z drinking audience would follow suit.
Gen Z already possesses major buying power and is on track to be the largest generation by 2026. The generation has gained a reputation for their social consciousness, ethically-driven consumption, and intense connection to the internet. Roughly defined as those born between 1997 and 2012, only the eldest members of Gen Z are currently of legal drinking age.
While it has been observed that Gen Z is consuming less alcohol than previous generations did at this age, and their interest in low alcohol or non-alcoholic options is noted, those are not grounds to write off the ability to engage these potential consumers. Drizly has documented that wine is the second most commonly purchased category among members of Gen Z – making up 28% of the group. Only liquor, which makes up 48% of Drizly sales to Gen Z, comprises a larger portion.
Gen Z has the potential to love wine. Given the generation’s documented passion for brand stories, ethics, sustainability efforts and values, their generational interests and priorities align with many of the emerging brands at the forefront of the wine industry.
Social media is the perfect way for wine brands to show these younger drinkers that their interests and values can be expressed through their beverage choices. These platforms allow a connection between consumers and producers that did not exist in previous marketing formats. Additionally, it gives brands an opportunity to leverage and partake in “word of mouth” dialogue in the digital world about their products in a way that was not possible before.
In a March webinar, Drizly noted that Gen Z purchasing decisions are driven by social media, and, more specifically, that they are most likely to become aware of new drinks to try through social media. This further confirms how crucial a social media presence has become for wine brands in the communications landscape.
No conversation about Gen Z and their social media habits can occur without addressing TikTok, as it is one of the most popular online platforms for Gen Z and also the fastest growing social media platform. While many brands have taken off on the video-sharing platform, their restrictions on alcohol have limited the ability for the drinks industry to take full advantage of the conversation.
The success of TikTok speaks volumes beyond the platform regarding the interests of Gen Z. While some social media platforms are more focused on aesthetics, TikTok has become a source of information and authenticity. The New York Times recently reported that many users have come to use it as a search engine over Google when trying to find information — a role that TikTok has embraced — last year, they began offering users the ability to post longer videos, allowing them to delve further into educational and practical topics..
TikTok’s strength as a search engine alternative has developed, in part, due to the search feature’s ability to identify and process the content of videos. When searching on the app, results can include videos in which a word is shown in a clip on the screen, even if the account that posted it did not type the name or say it in the audio. This allows brands to monitor conversations in a different, more thorough way than on other social and web platforms.
Currently, paid advertising by alcohol brands is totally prohibited on TikTok. While organic content is not explicitly banned on the platform, TikTok’s Community Guidelines state that “Content promoting, mentioning, or depicting alcohol products consumed by persons of legal drinking age but in a dangerous fashion may not be eligible for recommendation.” This refers to the app’s algorithm-driven “For You Page,” which is the primary way that users view and discover content on the platform.
These restrictions are due to the fact that TikTok’s algorithm and data collection from users make it impossible to filter content to an exclusively 21+ audience.
Of the alcohol companies that Drizly lists as best-selling among Gen Z, none currently have profiles on TikTok. These brands do, however, have active platforms on other social media networks, especially Instagram.
Despite the limitations on traditional investment, there are a number of ways in which brands can explore the platform and utilize learnings from its popularity to inform our ways of developing content and working on other social media platforms.
Wine companies should be monitoring the platform for both conversation about their product specifically, and for general user interest and engagement in conversations about their product category and trends at large.
We recommend monitoring the accounts of key players in the wine industry with large presences on TikTok as well as staying abreast of trends from TikTok influencers. For example, Amanda McCrossin (@somm_vivant) shares videos that educate and provide informative, inside information. Her most viewed recent videos are focused on education, with videos about Beaujolais Nouveau, Chardonnay vs. Sauvignon Blanc, and Black Grape Varietals all receiving over 200k views. Her videos are met with eager questions and intense interest;the success and user response to accounts and content like hers can offer insight on specific consumer questions and curiosities.
On the other hand, winemaker Joe Wagner (@joethewinemaker) has gained popularity on the app for his videos dipping his bottles of Belle Glos in their signature wax seal. While he also shares educational content, the wax dipping videos receive a significantly higher number of views based on their sheer entertainment value that fits into the trend of “oddly satisfying” content.
Finally, much like any other consumer category, TikTok offers an avenue for influencers and users to share recommended wines per occasion and food pairing. In these videos, TikTok influencer, @thewineguru has gained hundreds of thousands of views sharing their recommendation on selecting bottles.
That is all to say that TikTok has revealed many areas of interest within the wine category, whether red wine, white wine or sparkling. While the application of these lessons on other platforms like Facebook (meta), Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube or Snapchat ought to vary by brand, the general degree to which TikTok can be used to inform social media strategy on other platforms as a barometer for Gen Z’s interest and curiosities makes monitoring the platform an essential part of any social media strategy for brands and companies in the beverage-alcohol industry.
It is expected that TikTok will eventually evolve to allow alcohol advertising. If or when this shift occurs, education ought to be considered crucial to establishing brand awareness. Wine brands should be prepared to present a spokesperson with clear credibility on not only the product and their relationship to it but also on the greater industry being addressed. TikTok users expect brands to answer their questions promptly, to react to the trends and world around them, and to maintain high standards of accountability.
The Colangelo & Partners social media team monitors TikTok along with all other social media platforms to keep our finger on the pulse of platform changes, trends, and other patterns. By keeping records of these shifts, we are able to evaluate the continuing evolution of the digital landscape overall. As members of Gen Z continue to reach legal drinking age, this awareness of their social media behavior will continue to guide our efforts to reach these new drinkers and to translate our client’s stories into the ever-evolving space that is social media.