Consumers over 50 are drinking more, spending more and embracing innovations. So, why do we ignore them?
As millennials and Gen Z age into their buying power and become a larger and larger segment of legal drinking age consumers, it seems like they’re the only demographic that the beer market cares about. Most innovations in beer are targeted almost exclusively at those consumers, and yet, older generations have more money than their younger counterparts, are open to innovation and exhibit stronger brand loyalty. Here’s why the industry should embrace over-50 active agers as the key to post-pandemic growth in beer.
Chase the Dollars
Millennials are now officially the biggest generation, but boomers aren’t too far behind. When combined with older members of Gen X, they represent a significant portion of the population, and they have more money than their kids.
“It’s very important to advertise products to the over-50 customer,” says Mike Kugler, Origlio’s Senior Director of Sales. “After all, this group has the largest amount of discretionary income available to them.”– Mike Kugler, Origlio Beverage’s Senior Director of Sales
As the beer industry faces the challenges of a post-pandemic world, older drinkers with deep pockets could play an important role in getting the market back on track. Active agers are eager to get back to “normal,” whether that’s enjoying a drink on-premise or hosting backyard celebrations.
“Occasion-based drinking still applies to the 50+ demographic,” says Jed Powell, Director of Off-Premise Chain Sales at Origlio. “From personal experience, if we’re tailgating, hanging by the firepit or at the beach we tend toward products that are consumed in volume (like lighter beers or seltzers). If we’re having a dinner party, celebrating a special occasion or celebrating holidays, the beverage is usually more high-end like Corona, or a craft beer. And if it’s a beer after yardwork or with takeout, it would usually be an ‘old favorite.’”
And while active agers may drink more moderately than their younger counterparts, they also drink more regularly, and tend toward quality over quantity.
In their rush to cater to younger drinkers, breweries can inadvertently leave the over-50 crowd out of the conversation. That’s a mistake, according to Bart Watson, Chief Economist for the Brewers Association, who says that the 50+ demographic is often disregarded because “they’re seen as already being set in their preferences with fewer consumer years ahead of them.”
But recent studies have shown that the American population is staying active and healthy for longer and are consuming more alcohol than previous generations. According to a December 2020 report from Rabobank, consumers over 50 accounted for 39% of U.S. alcohol consumption in 2019, up from 29% in 2007. And while many assume older drinkers become set in their ways as they age, there are many consumers over 50 who are open to new experiences – but the industry rarely makes the effort to educate and recruit them.
There’s also a perception that advertising, especially in the social media age, doesn’t reach over-50 consumers. But 75% of Americans aged 50 to 64 have smartphones, while Americans over 50 spend nearly $7 billion online annually.
The key is keeping marketing relevant to the lives of active agers. Find them where they are, whether it’s TV, Facebook (their preferred social media outlet) or in your store. If over-50 consumers are a key demographic for you, Corona’s classic “Find Your Beach” POS might promote sales more effectively than the brand’s new ads featuring Snoop Dogg – though you might be surprised by which of your customers are down with the D.O. Double G!
The over-50 demographic tends to favor value and traditional brands and stick to options they know and are comfortable with. But active agers are more open to innovation than some give them credit for, and once they find something they like, they’re highly loyal.
“Although older consumers do have their favorite brands, they still want to try new things and keep up with the trends,” says Powell. “Craft beer has been a catalyst with the 50+ consumer to try new brands, styles and flavors. This trend has carried over to recent innovations like seltzers, teas, lemonades and more.”
The challenge, explains Steve Westley, Director of Off-Premise Sales for Origlio Reading, is finding a seamless way to introduce change into a consumer’s regular routine. But the opportunity is there, and even better, older customers aren’t likely to drop their favorite brands when they try new ones.
“I see many 50+ consumers entering a distributor and inquiring about new and different items they saw on TV or heard about from their friends,” Westley says. “At first, they look for a small package, because they’re not sure of the taste, or because it looks like something their wife would enjoy, so they often get what they came in for, plus that new package they heard about.”
Boomers Just Want to Have Fun
Ultimately, the most important thing is to remember that – just like their millennial and Gen Z counterparts – consumers over 50 still want to have fun with their friends and enjoy a couple of beers!
“We still like adventure, hanging with friends and living the good life,” says Powell. “I’m as active in my 50s as I was in my 20s and 30s… But the 50+ consumer probably knows what it means to want to relax after a hard day at work… the pressures of life… and the need for a little escapism with a couple of beverages even more than the younger generation!”