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Consumer & Trade Research Shows Increased Demand for Sustainably Produced Wine

The California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) along with co-hosts from California, New York, Oregon and Washington hosted a webinar June 5, 2020, sharing the latest consumer and trade perceptions on sustainable wine. Over 500 webinar registrants from 19 U.S. states and representing all aspects of the wine industry attended, confirming strong interest in this topic.

Two wine industry research experts, Lulie Halstead, CEO of Wine Intelligence based in London, and Christian Miller, proprietor of Full Glass Research in Berkeley, presented new data and insights from recent consumer and trade research on perceptions of sustainable winegrowing, certification and practices. Their research indicates increasing market demand for sustainably produced wine. As the value of sustainability in the marketplace flourishes, growers and vintners across the U.S. are increasingly embracing sustainable winegrowing practices. 

Lulie Halstead presented updates of a survey, first presented at the inaugural U.S. Sustainable Winegrowing Summit in June 2019, where focus groups explored national and international consumer perceptions, which was updated in January 2020. “Younger consumers of legal drinking age are significantly more engaged with sustainability and view it as increasingly important to protect future resources. Communicating sustainability values is vital in helping to raise awareness of the wine industry’s significant efforts,” Halstead offered.

Wine Intelligence research on consumer perceptions of sustainable winegrowing (particularly by Millennials and Gen Z) included a high interest in purchasing sustainably produced wine in the future, a favorable perception of sustainable certification programs and certification logos and a willingness to pay more for wine that has been sustainably produced.Key insights on Consumer Perceptions:

  • While organic wine is more universally understood, sustainably produced wine has the highest future purchase consideration, with 71% of U.S. wine drinkers (surveyed in January 2020) indicating that they would consider buying sustainably produced wine in the future.

  • Millennials lead the way in purchasing from the range of sustainably and environmentally produced wine, and nine in 10 are “willing to pay” more for sustainable wine. Among all U.S. wine consumers, $3 was the average extra value that consumers indicated they were “willing to pay” for a sustainably produced wine.
  • Younger consumers (Millennials and Gen Z of legal drinking age) are significantly more engaged with sustainability, view it as increasingly important to protect the future, and have a strong affinity towards sustainable wine certifications..

  • Consumers seek easy ways to find and identify sustainable wine such as clear and simple visual cues or clearly identified sections in a store. Sustainability certifications for wine provide transparency and reassurance.

  • While winery websites and wine tasting events are more effective at communicating wine sustainability, wine labels and peer recommendation are more frequently used sources.

Christian Miller explored perceptions of sustainability among the trade through focus groups and a survey of 425 respondents from the 4,700-member Wine Opinions Trade Panel. In newly released findings, Miller noted, “Our research found that large majorities at all levels of the trade felt familiar with key concepts of sustainable wine production, and do recommend sustainably produced, organic and biodynamic wines to their customers.” The research also indicated “strong support for clear and reliable certifications that can be communicated to the trade and consumers,” according to Miller.

Wine Opinions Trade Panel Respondents

The Importance of Sustainable Practices to the Trade in Choosing Wines—2019 vs. 2016

Key insights on Trade Perceptions

• Protecting natural resources and addressing climate change impacts were perceived as the two leading goals of sustainable production, with 86% and 79% respectively agreeing that they were necessary requirements of sustainability. In a similar 2016 survey, the responses were 77% and 62% respectively. 

•Sustainable practices are frequently (32%) or occasionally (50%) a factor when choosing a wine to market or sell to customers. Only 3% responded “Never.” In a similar 2016 survey, responses were frequently (21%) and occasionally (52%) and Never (4%). 

•Sustainable practices were a factor due to a combination of personally caring about sustainability (84%), increased consumer demand (71%) and as a useful selling attribute (68%). In the 2016 survey, 71% indicated that their personal support was a factor. 

•In terms of the market outlook, 73% feel that the demand for sustainably produced products has increased over the past five to 10 years; and 76% think it will increase in the next five to 10 years. In 2016, responses were 66%/73%, respectively. 

•“All things being equal” (in terms of the product), 71% would purchase a sustainably produced wine over one that is not. 

•The promotions or actions that were seen as most useful in supporting the category were “clear and highly visible labeling” on wine packages, back label information and tastings or seminars promoting sustainably produced wines to consumers.

The hour-long program concluded with a question and answer session along with tips for communicating sustainability to trade and consumers, presented by CSWA Executive Director Allison Jordan. Jordan noted, “It is CSWA’s long-term mission to promote adoption of sustainable practices. We’re thrilled to see a growing interest in sustainable practices from trade and consumers, while seeking marketplace opportunities for wineries and winegrape growers that are implementing these practices.” 

Webinar co-hosts included Wine Institute, California Association of Winegrape Growers, Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing, Oregon Wine Board, New York Wine & Grape Foundation, Washington State Wine, Washington Winegrowers and LIVE. Watch the webinar HERE.

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