Are you doing enough to help the aged?

That's a bit of a personal question isn't it?

Sorry, I don't mean you individually. I mean us collectively. How much time and dedication do we as an industry spend trying to sell and promote wine to the 60 plus age group?

How do you mean?

Let's face it, none of us like getting any older. There's nothing worse than reading the latest consumer survey and realising you are about to slip from one demographic to another. So imagine how the so-called baby boomers feel when they read the latest stats about how many Generation Z or millennials are getting into wine. Not only are they slipping ever deeper in to the last age demographic on the list, they are doing so much pretty much unloved, and from a marketing point of view uncared for.

Where’s the evidence for that?

Well, when it comes to advertising and marketing the 60 plus age group is pretty much forgotten. This is ironic considering they are the people with the largest disposable incomes, the most time on their hands to read and discover more about wine, and even go and explore different wine regions. The vast majority, 70%, are also regular drinkers (ONS), and hardly likely to have their head turned by the latest cranberry infused cider on the market. Yet they are usually the last to be actively marketed to.

Go on then show us some figures...

New research by High50, a website aimed at the over 50 market, claims only 4% think advertising is directly aimed at their generation. A “Marketing to the Over 55s” report from Mailjet found that nearly a third (27%) of those aged over 55 in the UK feel brands are too focused on targeting younger people. A worrying 32% said they never received any relevant offers or promotional material from brands they are interested in buying. It's not just wine, but the same across all major consumer and FMCG categories. In the US, baby boomers dominate spending in 119 out of the top 123 consumer goods sectors, yet only 5% of the “advertising dollar” is spent on them.

There are also a lot more older people?

Now you're getting it. The number of people aged 60 years and over, already outnumber those under 16, and by 2024 up to 20% of the population will be over 65 or retired compared to 17% now. That figure is expected to rise to 25% by 2035 (ONS). They are also increasingly well off, fuelled by payouts from final payment pension schemes, the ONS estimates the average income of a retired couple is 13% higher than they were before the recession in 2008, compared to a 1.2% fall for non-retired households.


But surely wine companies recognise the importance of the older drinker?

Indeed and there are parts of the wine trade that have the grey pound firmly in their sights. The big, direct mail companies have long seen the potential in tying-in loyal customers to monthly payment plans. The Wine Society, Laithwaite’s and Sunday Times Wine Club all have focused wine lists aimed at older, safer customers looking for tried and trusted wines. Laithwaite’s, for example, runs its informercial TV adverts to target the daytime Cash in the Attic audience. Even the average age of customers at Naked Wines and Majestic are nearer 45 to 50 than in their 20s or 30s. Younger people have different priorities than spending over £100 on a case of wine.

But don't we need to concentrate more on attracting the next generation of wine drinker?

Clearly it is in everyone’s interest to bring new and younger drinkers into wine. Which is largely the role of the major mass market supermarket brands. But we should not lose sight of where the bread and butter of our trade is coming from now, and increasingly in the future as we live, and drink, for longer.

So what should we be doing?

Well for all the miles of content that is written about so called hipster and natural wines we need to be also talking and writing about the Chiantis, the Grand Reservas and making sure what you might call the safe Sunday night, costume drama wines are also getting more attention and focus. ITV’s new The Wine Show is very much on the right tracks. The celebrity stars of the show are based in the safety zone of Tuscany and only ever venture out to other traditional Italian holiday hotspots favoured by the 60 plus age groups. They might get wine brought to them to be tasted by the globe-trotting whippersnapper wine expert, Joe Fattorini, but it is in the comfort of a Tuscan villa. If you are looking for inspiration on how to talk, listen and engage with the older consumer then it may be worth going to see the New Old exhibition at London’s Design Museum, which is packed full of creative ideas of how to do exactly that from leading brand, design and advertising agencies. After all, as we have learnt along the way, wisdom really does come with age.

* This article was published as part of the Grapevine newsletter I produce for the London WIne Fair.