Emotive wine labels prompt consumers to pay more, study finds

Emotive wine labels can prompt consumers to spend more on a bottle of wine and like it better, new research from Australia has found.

A study by the University of Adelaide found that the descriptions of wine on labels influence consumers far more than was originally thought, with more emotive descriptions convincing consumers to pay more for a bottle of wine, as well as increase their appreciation of it and cause more positive emotions than those with simple descriptors.

The study, conduced by the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, and published in the journal Food Research International Australia  said that the more elaborate the information, the higher the likelihood that consumers would like it and be willing to pay.

Project leader Associate Professor of Oenology and Sensory Studies Sue Bastian said that choosing the right wine at the point of sale could be a difficult task but the study was designed to further research on existing wine label and information and find how the description influenced the “wine consumption experience”.

“Cleverly written wine and producer descriptions when coupled with unbranded wine tasting can evoke more positive emotions, increasing our positive perception of the wine, our estimation of its quality and the amount we would be willing to pay for it,” she said.

Around 126 white wine consumers took part in the study which testing three wines – a chardonnay, riesling and sauvignon blanc – through three tastings. These included a blind tasting without any information on the wines, a tasting with a basic sensory description a week later, and a third tasting with an elaborate or more emotional description.

The results showed that the level of information given to the consumer had a significant effect, with the elaborate information provoking higher expectations before the consumers tasted the wines, and higher liking ratings and more intense positive emotions after they had tasted them (for example eliciting responses such as contented, happy and warm-hearted compared to embarrassed and unfulfilled). It also promoted a “substantial” increase in consumers’ willingness to pay after tasting the wines compared to the wines in the blind tasting, the report found.

It also found that if consumers’ expectation of the wine before tasting matched or just exceeded the tasting itself, these resulted in more intensely positive emotions, however if these expectations were not met, this disappointment was felt by participants more keenly. The research pointed out that this highlighted not only the importance of well written and accurate wine descriptions, but also that information on the label is likely to influence consumers’ wine drinking experience and behaviour.

Dr Lukas Danner, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Adelaide and fellow-author of the study, pointed out that the findings had important implications for wine producers and the hospitality industry as they highlighted how necessary it was to provide more detailed descriptions than just wine tasting notes.

“Companies could even consider involving consumers in label description optimisation,” Dr Danner said.

Practical application

This ethos is increasingly proving attractive to retailers in the UK in the way they merchandise wine in the aisles.

Last September, UK convenience retailer The Co-op looked to tap into its membership base to better inform its wine range and develop ‘real’ wine reviews that would appeal in online tasting notes and on in-store promotions.  The “sample and share’ project offered 50 members the opportunity to taste its premium own-label Shiraz in accordance with tasting guidelines in exchange for tasting feedback via an online survey.

At the time, a spokesman said its own research suggested that “‘wine speak’ and wine experts’ reviews were a real turn off when shopping for wine in The Co-op,” and that it was seeking a way to talk about wine in a more appealing way to its members.

It has since launched three ales in store that featured tasting notes written by its customers on the bottles for the first time.

Similarly Morrisons introduced a colour-coded system with style descriptors in store, which it said had “greater meaning” for its consumers that made it easier to navigate the fixture. It came after the retailer ditched its merchandising by taste experiment and returned to colour-blocking by country. “Shelf edge labels has been entirely rewritten in a language that customers will understand, with words that will have meaning to them,” senior wine sourcing manager Mark Jarman told the drinks business at the time

The research was funded by Australian grapegrowers and winemakers through Wine Australia with matching funds from the Australian Government.

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