As part of a research project initiated by the Institute of Tourism, Wine Business and Marketing, a team of researchers from IMC Krems, headed by International Wine Business degree programme director Albert Stöckl, set out to reveal consumers’ perceptions of the terms “organic”, “sustainable”, and “traditional” or “conventional”. They also asked consumers for their opinions on what specific elements these designations should include. In addition, the researchers analysed buyers’ expectations and preferences when they purchase sustainably produced wines and the prices they are willing to pay for them.
Future strategies for wineries
A representative sample of 4,553 wine consumers from Germany, Austria and Switzerland took part in the quantitative survey. The researchers classified the respondents as “average consumers” who regularly buy wine, but as a rule only rarely take time to think about organic wine production methods or sustainability.
Besides the survey, discussions were held with representatives of various target groups in order to dig deeper into the questions of how, when and why consumers buy wine. The study also included interviews with experts who shared their views on the industry, as well as providing insights into the level of knowledge and behaviour patterns of wine buyers from the producers’ and retailers’ perspective.
The findings were compared for different targets groups, which were defined on the basis of their attitudes towards the environment. The results could help wineries to develop strategies for advertising and marketing organic and/or sustainably produced wines more effectively. It could also give winemakers food for thought when it comes to weighing up their strategic focus and possibly making individual production steps more sustainable, with a view to boosting their competitiveness on the domestic and international markets and leaving them in a better position moving forward.
Regional winemaking a significant factor, production methods play lesser role
The study revealed that the average consumer is not at all knowledgeable or well informed about organic and, in particular, sustainably produced wine. At best, their knowledge of topics such as organic wine production, what it involves and what is prohibited barely scratches the surface. Interest in organic methods and sustainability is low, with consumers showing little motivation to find out more about these ideas. On the whole, buyers believe that wine production is not detrimental to the environment. The study also clearly underlines the fact that winemaking in accordance with regulations for organic and sustainable wines plays a subordinate part in wine drinkers’ purchasing decisions compared to other criteria. On the other hand, environmentally aware consumers attach greater significance to production methods. When asked about their preferences, it emerged that buying wines from the local region or from their own country was a higher priority for the respondents than certificates for organic production and sustainability. People are also reluctant to pay higher prices for certified organic and sustainable wines. Supermarkets – driven by their print media, radio, TV and internet channels – are clearly the number-one choice when it comes to purchasing wine, and are the most effective option for advertising.
The project was funded by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Regions and Water Management and commissioned and subsidised by the Higher Federal College and Federal Office for Wine and Fruit Growing, Franz Rosner. The project lead is Prof. Albert Franz Stöckl, and the project team members are Claudia Dolezal, Markus Walter Eitle, Desiree Schnauer, Larissa Neuburger and Prof. Claudia Bauer-Krösbacher.