Stolz, Hanna and Schmid, Otto (2007) Organic viticulture and wine-making: development of environment and consumer friendly technologies for organic wine quality improvement and scientifically based legislative framework. Deliverable: D 2.7 Public report about first round qualitative consumer research and market needs. Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL, CH-5070.
This survey of consumers’ perceptions and expectations regarding organic wine and viticulture in the selected case study countries of Italy (IT), France (FR), Germany (DE) and Switzerland (CH) was conducted within the framework of the EU research project ORWINE (Organic viticulture and wine-making: development of environment and consumer friendly technologies for organic wine quality improvement and scientifically based legislative framework).
The objectives of the study were to investigate consumers’ knowledge and expectations regarding organic wine and viticulture, their preferences regarding different labelling concepts, and their perceptions regarding sulphites and/or the use of other additives. Consumers’ perceptions of organic table grapes and of more general aspects of organic viticulture, e.g. environmental impacts, were also investigated. Two target groups were identified for the study, namely organic consumers and quality wine consumers. The method chosen to achieve the study’s objectives was the qualitative market research method of focus group discussion.
The main findings of the consumer study are that consumers purchase wine according to geographical origin, grape variety and price. The price is often a benchmark for consumers regarding the quality of the wine on offer, even though some consumers doubt whether cheap wines are automatically poor quality wines or, conversely, whether expensive wines are always high quality wines.
Regarding the image of organic wine, it may be described as highly positive in terms of production and processing, with the main emphasis on the issue of pesticide treatments, which are prohibited in organic grape production. Organic wine, in contrast to conventional wine, is expected to come from small-scale production facilities. In addition, organic wines are considered to be purer wines with no additives or harmful residues compared with conventional wines. Thus, they are also considered as healthier and more salubrious by those consumers with experience of organic wine. Nevertheless, organic wine has a rather poor image regarding taste. One group of consumers is disappointed because they see no additional benefits regarding taste and think that organic wines taste worse than conventional wines in some cases, mainly due to too much acidity. Only very few consumers stated that they appreciate the more individual taste of organic wine. The consumer study indicates clearly that communication strategies have to take account of this negative image regarding taste in particular. However, one problem is that wine shops, which are visited to purchase high quality wines, do not usually offer organic wines. Thus, consumers tend to believe that no organic premium wines exist.
Consumer acceptance of a limited range of additives and processing aids commonly used in conventional wine processing was also investigated. Here, the emphasis was on acceptance of sulphites, wood chips, selected bacteria, yeasts and enzymes, as well as gelatines. Levels of acceptance of specific additives and processing aids in organic wine processing differ between consumers. Four strategies were identified in this regard:
1) ban substances that are a danger to health, regardless of whether they are necessary for making a good wine; 2) prohibit additives or processing aids which affect wine flavour and/or its naturalness or tradition, or 3) allow the same substances to be used as in conventional production, but introduce lower thresholds for organic wine than for conventional wine, and introduce a declaration of their use in organic wine processing. None of these three strategies seems to be the appropriate one. However, a combination of the strategies would match most consumers’ interests. Clear contrasts to organic wine should be established here, especially in relation to critical and harmful substances. This would imply a threshold for sulphites as long as no alternatives are found. Wood chips should be forbidden or their use openly declared. Enzymes, yeasts and bacteria should not be genetically modified but derived by natural means.
Labelling requirements were also investigated. Four different strategies were identified:
1) a complete list of ingredients, additives and processing aids and methods to appear on the label with an indication of the quantities of additives and processing aids; 2) a reduced list of ingredients with the declaration of specific additives and processing techniques; 3) a declaration of those substances which were not used, and 4) no declaration other than the organic label which stands for unambiguous cellar regulations. The first suggestion would be the most transparent solution. However, it would entail unfair competition between conventional and organic wine if conventional wines were not subject to the duty of declaration. Besides this, a complete list would be too much for consumers and wine bottle tabs alike. The second strategy is aimed at informing consumers about organic wine processing methods, but the problem of unfair competition still exists if only organic wine has the duty of declaration. A declaration of those substances not used is probably a good way to inform consumers and to communicate the benefits of organic farming at the same time. Thus, this labelling concept is beneficial in terms of improving the marketing potential of organic wine. The last solution does not imply an unfair competitive situation for organic wine; however, consumers would need to take action themselves to find out the differences between organic and conventional wine. They would have to research which regulations are behind the organic label. This would certainly entail too much effort for some consumers if the benefits of organic wine are not clearly communicated.
The consumer survey has identified the most relevant areas, which have to be considered, when regulating wine in the European Union. These are on one hand the use of additives and processing aids and on the other hand the labelling.
If in the EU regulation for organic food and farming, or in European community rules, organic wine is taken up, consumers are expecting rules which fit to their expectations towards organic wine as being a “natural” product, which is as little as possible alternated. Therefore, the list of additives and processing has to be short. Additives are in general not a problem if no risk can be associated with them, e.g. the use of egg based additives or gelatine might be further restricted to plant-based sources and not animal derived substances. Consumers must be ensured that with the regulation the use of yeast and bacteria do not have a risk of GMO-contamination.
Regarding the use of sulphites, the results can be interpreted in 2 ways: either set a maximum level, which ensures no health risks but guarantees a good wine. There was no clear indication from the consumer study, that sulphites should be completely banned for organic wine production (with few exceptions), although for most consumers sulphites were seen as critical. However, a lower maximum sulphite level might be a solution,
which committed organic consumers would understand, although the exact level will not be so important. The second solution would be to forbid sulphites.
Regarding labelling, consumers want to know where the wine is coming. The new proposed draft for a new EU regulation for organic food and farming will be more demanding regarding labelling the origin, in particular if the products come from the EU or non EU areas. Although the requirement of labelling the origin is in the interest of the wine producer, it is clear that in particular for organic wine transparency regarding the origin is even more important than for non-organic wine. Regarding the use of wood chips two ways could be considered: the exclusion or the labelling of their use.
Other issues like restrictions of specific processing methods could not be clearly extracted from this consumer research. Therefore this seems for the time-being not a priority area for the EU commission, when regulating organic wine.
Regarding the private organic wine sector, producers should reinforce their presence at wine awards to prove the premium quality of their products and organize wine tasting events in order to improve contact to consumers and direct sales. Besides, the presence of organic wines in specialized wine shops should be reinforced. Wine makers should further work on the sensorial quality of organic wines.
Retailers should provide more information at the point of sale (leaflet, homepage, label) with information about the producer as well as about production and processing methods applied and the “terroir” of origin. Furthermore, wine tasting events at the point of sale would give consumers the opportunity to try organic wines. Besides, the organic label should not be at the front of the wine bottle as long organic wine has a negative quality image.
The consumer survey has also shown two areas, where also research could contribute with further research: Research which contributes to reduce the use of additives and processing aids corresponds to the expectation of many consumers. This does include lowering the level of the use of additives and especially sulphites, as researched in the ORWINE project. Although the health aspect was of second priority many consumers in the survey linked organic production with health attributes. Further research on health promoting substances such as secondary metabolites, e.g. resveratrol, would for them be of interest.
Advisory services should support wine producers and processors to improve the taste of their wines, by providing better knowledge about the different inter-acting factors regarding the production of high quality wines.
To conclude, the survey has shown interesting fields of action for policy makers, producers and their organizations, retailers as well as research.
|Keywords:||Sozio-Ökonomie, Markt- und Konsumentenstudien, Markt, Ökologischer Weinbau und Kelterung (EU-ORWINE), Konsumentenforschung|
|Subjects:|| Food systems > Markets and trade|
Values, standards and certification > Consumer issues
|Research affiliation:|| Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Socio-Economics|
European Union > ORWINE
|Related Links:||http://www.fibl.org/forschung/anbautechnik-pflanzenbau/bioweinbau/orwine.php, http://www.fibl.org/forschung/soziooekonomie/index.php|
|Deposited By:||Stolz, M.Sc. Hanna|
|Deposited On:||02 Mar 2007|
|Last Modified:||20 Jun 2011 09:12|
|Additional Publishing Information:||Funded by the European Commisson under the Sixth Framework Programme for European Research & Technological|
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