Accepted abstract - Creative Tastebuds Symposium 2021


Consumer perception and expectations of organic versus conventional wine: Two case studies

Innovation showcase and research paper

By Qian Janice Wang, Aarhus University, Denmark

Wine is a billion Euro industry in Europe, with the EU accounting for 65% of the world’s wine production. However, modern grape-growing involves a high level of pesticides. In France alone, viticulture represents 3% of agricultural land but 20% of the country’s fungicides. With an eye towards sustainability, more and more regions are looking towards organic grape farming. Organic viticulture abides by the principles of building soil fertility and minimizing damage to the environment by avoiding mineral salt fertilisers and agrochemical pesticides. However, it is not enough just to produce organic wines, if consumers are not willing to buy such (often more expensive) products. Therefore, it is crucial to understand consumer attitudes and expectations towards organic wines.

At Creative Tastebuds, I propose to present my recent research on consumer perception towards organic wine in two ways. First, I had conducted a large consumer study (N=128) at Aarhus Food Festival in September 2019, where I measured consumer expectations and actual sensory evaluation of wines with and without being labelled as “organic”. Participants were presented with two glasses of (unbeknownst to them) identical wines, introduced as both from Chianti, but with one being made from organic grapes and the other from conventionally grown grapes. First, participants rated their expectations regarding both wines in terms of liking, willingness to pay, aroma intensity, flavour balance (on a scale from earthy to fruity), body, mouthfeel, and length. Next, they tasted both wines and rated their actual experience on the same measures. Results revealed that while participants expected the organic wine to be lighter in body and shorter in length, they were willing to pay significantly more for the organic wine. There were no significant differences in actual tasting ratings between the two wines, demonstrating the effect of product information on expectations but not on actual perception.

To follow-up on this study, I would like to present an innovation showcase during the Creative Tastebuds conference, where I invite participants for a tasting experience of two wines from the same region/vintage/producer, with one wine actually made from organic grapes and the other from conventionally grown grapes. I plan to ask participants to evaluate both wines and guess which one is the organic wine. This will give me yet a different perspective on consumer perception of organic versus conventional wines. Results from this overall investigation can help organic wine producers better promote their products and also help consumers make more sustainable choices.

Finally, I think one way of maximising the informative value of this research is to run the innovation showcase on the first day of the conference, and then present both studies on day two, with both results from September as well as preliminary results from day one.