Who is the Mid-Atlantic Wine Consumer? Demographics, Behaviors, and Psychographics

By: Jennifer Zelinskie and Dr. Kathy Kelley

Currently, over 100 million people in the U.S. drink wine (vino-california.com). Although knowing and understanding the characteristics that describe the U.S. wine consumer are extremely important, keying in on wine consumers who live in the Mid-Atlantic, and who have better access to wines produced in the region, can provide even more valuable information. Demographics (age/generation, income, race/ethnicity, gender, education and income level, and similar) can help winery and tasting room owners understand “who” their customers are, while behaviors relate to likelihood of using a product (e.g. consumers who drink wine, consumers who purchase wine produced in certain regions) and level of usage (super core, core, and marginal wine consumers), and psychographics (attitudes) describe how consumers “feel” about wine.  Hence, it is important to understand how wine fits within the context of the Mid-Atlantic culture and detect if any subcultures exist that would warrant even more specific marketing messages, promotions (http://bit.ly/2fdAq6B), pricing strategies, and packaging (http://bit.ly/N8jBfo).

According to The Upfront Analytics Team, there are five key ways consumer demographic information can be used in a marketing strategy.  Specifically, to:

  1. understand who the ideal customer is based on their tastes and preferences (e.g. knowing what appeals to super core wine consumers, what Millennials prefer to drink),
  2. lower marketing costs by using the information to target customers more efficiently (e.g. using Facebook as opposed to traditional media to reach younger generations),
  3. identify new opportunities based on gaps in the current marketing strategy (e.g. marketing wine as being sustainable to reach consumers who are environmentally-conscious, marketing low-calorie wines to health conscious consumers),
  4. create unique selling points through marketing stories that appeal to your target customer (e.g. conveying what your brand represents, what makes your wine/tasting room unique), and
  5. better engagement, through the use of steps 1-4, which can lead to increased sales (http://bit.ly/2fdKEE7).

There is no question that knowing specifics about your customer is crucial. Certain segments are more likely to pay more for wine than others, or they may prefer dry/tannic style wines as opposed to sweeter wines (http://bit.ly/2fvApi8). Engaging different age groups can mean utilizing different means of communication or presenting your brand’s message in a unique way. Millennials, for example, love to experiment with wine, are drawn to hip, modern packaging and show very little brand loyalty (http://bit.ly/2fhl8yy).

Description of “Who” Purchases Wine Produced with Grapes Grown in New Jersey, New York, and/or Pennsylvania

Of the 1,038 consumers who participated in our March 2016 survey, 648 of them (62.4%) responded that they had purchased wines produced in at least one of the three states: New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.  This blog post focuses these participants, and we will use an abbreviation to remind our readers when the data presented is for those who were Mid-Atlantic Wine Purchasers (MAWP).

In Table 1 you will notice that slightly over half of the MAWP were female (57.4%) and approximately half lived in New York (49.5%), which is quite similar to the descriptive statistics of all 1,038 who participated in the survey.  We have included these data for consumers age 21 and older based on 2015 U.S. population estimates.


Other demographic variables that describe survey participants who purchased wine produced from grapes grown in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania:

  • less than a third (30.9%) were members of Generation X, between age 36 and 51, or were Older Millennials, age 27 to 35 years (24.7%, Figure 1),
  • had a Bachelor’s degree (34.9%) or had an Associate’s degree, technical degree, or similar (31.2%, Figure 2), and
  • had an average household income of $76,000 to $99,999 (22.1%), $100,000 to $149,999 (21.0%), or $50,000 to $75,999 (20.5%, Figure 3).

Figures 1 to 3.  Select Demographics (e.g. Generation, Education Levels) of Survey Participants Who Purchased Wine Produced from Grapes Grown in New Jersey, New York, and/or Pennsylvania and All Survey Participants.


Other demographic characteristics that described the Mid-Atlantic Wine Purchasers were:

  • 47.5% resided in a suburban area,
  • 70.1% were married or in a domestic relationship,
  • 55.2% had no children living in the household, and
  • 59.8% participant and one other individual in household drinks wine.

Mid-Atlantic Wine Purchasers Consumption and Buying Behaviors

Of our MAWP, 55.9% were “super core,” which is slightly higher than the percentage of all survey participants who were categorized as being “super core” wine consumers (49.3%, Table 2). Participants were also asked to select the frequency that best described how often they purchased bottles or containers of wine. Approximately a quarter (26.2%) of our MAWP purchased wine “two to three times a month” during an average year, which is similar to the percent of all survey participants who purchased wine at this frequency (25.9%) (Table 2).


What Wine do Mid-Atlantic Wine Purchasers Consume and Buy?

Participants were asked to respond to several survey questions to help identify what wines they consumed most often in regards to level of sweetness/dryness and the type of wine (e.g. white, red).

Based on responses, 35.2% of Mid-Atlantic Wine Purchasers indicated that they preferred to consumed dry wines and an additional 32.9% responded that they preferred to consume semi-sweet wines (Figure 4).  Pertaining to type of wine, 51.5% preferred to consume red wines and an additional 31.8% preferred to consume white wine (Figure 5).


Mid-Atlantic wine purchasers were asked to indicate from which of the three states (New Jersey, New York, and/or Pennsylvania) and other states/regions they would purchase wine for four different occasions (Table 3).  Participants were also asked to indicate which price ranges they were willing to pay for wine produced in the three states for both “everyday” occasions and for special occasions or celebrations (Table 4).



Based on this information, Mid-Atlantic wineries and/or tasting rooms could develop specific marketing messages to inform and remind consumers that their wines can be served during special occasions as well as enjoyed “everyday.” For example, they could promote that their wine pairs well with holiday meals, snacks typically served during sporting events (e.g. Pinot Noir with pretzels, Chardonnay with chips & nacho cheese, http://bit.ly/2eHJB3y), and/or desserts/fondue that are often served when entertaining (e.g. Late Harvest Riesling with Plain Cheesecake, http://bit.ly/2fisUYO).

Wineries and/or tasting rooms can also communicate with consumers that their Mid-Atlantic wines could be perfect to give as a gift.  For example, those located near universities, historic areas, etc. and have wine named after the region/activities/refers to the school should remind consumers that the wine could be an appropriate graduation gift or to celebrate occasions associated with the historical sites.  Wineries and/or tasting rooms can also promote the restaurants where their wines are served or tasting room staff can suggest a local BYO restaurant and then recommend one of their wines to pair with the meal.

Data presented in Table 4 provides insight as to what prices MAWP reported paying for all wine they bought, not just wine produced from grapes grown in the Mid-Atlantic, for both occasions.  Perhaps consumers have asked you why wine you (or others in the area) produce is more expensive than similar wines from outside the region.  This is an opportunity for you to inform them about why your price is higher (you produce small quantities of wine, production methods differ from mass-produced wine, etc.).  It may seem redundant or you may feel that your customers are familiar with the reasoning – but consumers need to be reminded (again and again) about your brand/what makes your business different from competitors in order for them to truly remember.

How do Mid-Atlantic Wine Purchasers Learn About Wine?

Participants were asked to select, from a list of 11 sources, all the sources they used to learn about wine.  Or those presented, the top five sources were:

  • friends and/or family (75.8%),
  • wine and liquor stores, including the employees, promotions/advertisements in the store, and/or sent via email or postal mail (65.6%),
  • winery tasting room staff and/or promotional/advertisement in the tasting room, and/or sent via email or postal mail (47.4%),
  • food and cooking magazines (e.g. Food & Wine, Bon Appetite, Food Network Magazine, Cooking Light) (43.2%), and
  • general online search using a search engine (e.g. Google, Bing, Yahoo) (38.6%).

The least selected sources were:

  • television/radio programs (cooking channel, local or national news segment) (21%),
  • local and/or regional magazines (online or print) (18.4%),
  • national and/or local newspaper articles (online or print) (16.4%), and
  • educational classes (e.g. short duration of 1 to 2 hours, long duration of 2 to 8 hours and/or multiple day workshops of 2 to 5 days) (8%).

It is important for wineries and/or tasting rooms to understand which sources consumers use to learn about wine. Not only are these sources helpful in determining where to place advertising and promotional messages, but to provide information that the source can then use to inform consumers about wine, pairing suggestions, how to store wines, etc.

How Can a Winery and/or Tasting Room in the Mid-Atlantic Region Apply This Information?

Knowing who purchases wine made from grapes grown in the three targeted states (New Jersey, New York, and/or Pennsylvania), prices participants paid for wine in general and what wines (sweetness/dryness level and type of wine) they prefer, among other data presented, can help wineries and/or winery tasting rooms develop more appealing products and better targeted promotional messages. In upcoming blog post we will continue to present data that describes the behaviors and psychographics of the Mid-Atlantic Wine Purchaser, as well as other segmentations that we feel will be valuable to wineries and/or tasting rooms in the region.

Additional Researchers & Jen Zelinskie’s Thesis Advisory Team:

  • Denise Gardner, Extension Enologist, Department of Food Science, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Ramu Govindasamy, Professor, Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics, Rutgers University
  • Jeffrey Hyde, Professor, Agricultural Economics, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Brad Rickard, Assistant Professor, Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University
  • Karl Storchmann, Clinical Professor, Economics Department, New York University; Managing Editor, Journal of Wine Economics
  • Michela Centinari, Assistant Professor of Viticulture, Department of Plant Science, The Pennsylvania State University

The project “Developing Wine Marketing Strategies for the Mid-Atlantic Region” (GRANT 11091317) is being funded by a USDA Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program grant, whose goal is “to assist in exploring new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products and to encourage research and innovation aimed at improving the efficiency and performance of the marketing system.”  For more information about the program, visit http://www.ams.usda.gov.

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2 responses to “Who is the Mid-Atlantic Wine Consumer? Demographics, Behaviors, and Psychographics”

  1. Joal Wolf says :

    Figure 4: Mid-Atlantic Wine Purchasers Wine Preference Based on Level of Sweetness/Dryness. Most wineries in the east sell more sweet and semi-sweet than dry wines. We have found that people talk dry but buy sweet – a lotnover the past 30-35 years. It would be interesting to see how many of the survey participants (perceptions, etc.) actually buy dry wines.

    • psuenology says :

      Thank you, Joal! I will forward this onto to Dr. Kathy Kelley. She may know more about national trends, as well, which I think also lean towards a semi-dry/semi-sweet or sweet wine.

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