Millennials: Will they ever stop killing things!? Judging by how the media covers today’s young adults, anyway, you’d think the only industry the under-35 crowd isn’t trying to snuff out is avocado toast. Googling “millennials are killing...” or “millennials are ruining...” produces a pretty hilarious list of results. To name a few:
And now, apparently, beer? The investment firm Goldman Sachs recently downgraded the stock ratings on shares of the Boston Beer Company and Constellation Brands, both large, publicly traded brewers. (Boston Beer makes Sam Adams and Angry Orchard cider; Constellation owns the Corona family.)
Goldman cited data from Nielsen Research indicating a slight decline in beer penetration of the U.S. alcoholic beverage market since 2016, while wine and liquor held steady. The firm predicted continued declines through the remainder of 2017 – about 0.7 percent overall.
Alarming news reports blamed the downturn on – you guessed it – the millennials! Except...they’re simply wrong.
Here’s what Goldman’s chief analyst wrote in justifying the downgrade: “The cause is younger groups shifting away from beer. The youngest demographic (<35 year olds) overall penetration rates are not increasing. The 35-44 year old cohort shows a shift away from Beer to Wine & Spirits.”
You’d have to interpret that pretty strangely to find a way to pin it on millennials, whose beer consumption is “not increasing,” which is different, obviously, than “declining.” Also, there is some disagreement over whether people currently in their mid-30s qualify as millennials, but zero definitions of that generation have ever expanded its boundaries far enough to include people in their mid-40s.
This hasn’t stopped media outlets from turning anything even remotely millennial-related into content, because people eat that stuff up. Presumably, you clicked on this blog post for precisely that reason (in which case, thanks!!). The biggest outlet to turn this story into Gen-Y clickbait was the Washington Post, which later corrected its headline and story to place the blame where it belongs: people slightly older than millennials. The page now contains a magnificent editor’s note that begins: “An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed the trend to millennials.”
The Weekly Standard looked at the actual Nielsen data, and confirmed that beer consumption among millennials, after declining for most of 2016, has indeed leveled off.
The good news for us, and our customers, is that while mass-produced beer may be in minor decline, craft beer remains strong. The Brewers Association, the trade group for the U.S. craft beer industry, recently released figures that suggested steady and stable growth for the sector in the first part of 2017.
As far as we’re concerned, millennials – and Gen X-ers, for that matter – aren’t killing anything. Maybe they’re just sick of crappy, mass-produced beer.