Completing the process of becoming certified for producing wine using sustainable practices can take years for vineyard owners. Achieving organic or biodynamic certification can take even longer. Plus the cost of becoming certified and going through the inspection process can cost thousands of dollars. Is this worth it for grape farmers? Do consumers really care, and are they willing to pay more for an eco-certified wine?
A 2017 survey conducted at Sonoma State University Wine Business Institute with 301 wine consumers illustrates a willingness to pay several dollars more per bottle for “green” certified wines. The online survey was completed by a convenience sample of 26% men and 74% women living in the USA. Age by generation included 65% Millennial, 9% Gen X, and 26% Baby Boomers.
Definitions for Eco-Certified Wines
Consumers were asked: “Of the three major methods of environmental certification for wine in the US, which appeals to you most?” The results show that 44% selected sustainable wine, followed by 36% biodynamic and 20% organic grape wine.
|Definition||Which Appeals to You Most?|
|Certified Sustainable Wine – made in a way that is environmentally friendly, equitable to employees and economically viable to winegrowers. No agri-chemicals are applied, unless necessary to save the crop.||
|Made with Certified Organic Grapes – means the grapes were farmed with NO agri-chemicals. To achieve this certification, the vineyard must prove they have only used organic products for 3 years or more.||
|Certified Biodynamic Wine – goes beyond Organic by not only requiring ORGANIC grapes, but also uses farming practices designed to return the soil to a natural state.||
Will You Pay More for Eco-Certified Wine?
Respondents were then asked if they would pay more for a bottle of eco-certified wine. Figure 1 illustrates that 91% of the sample would pay $1 more for a bottle of wine made from sustainably certified grapes, 88% would pay $1 more for a bottle made from certified organic grapes, and 85% would pay $1 more per bottle of wine made from certified biodynamic grapes. Likewise, a range of 78% – 81% of consumers said they would be willing to pay $2 more per bottle. However, as the price increased from $3 more to $4 more to $5 more per bottle, there were a decreasing number of consumers willing to pay more. Interestingly, however, as the price increased a slightly larger percentage of consumers were willing to pay more for certified biodynamic wines.
Figure 1: Are You Willing to Pay More Money for a Bottle of Eco-Certified Wine?
Implications for Winegrape Growers
The results of this survey indicate that consumers are interested and willing to pay a slight premium for wines that are certified sustainable, organic, and biodynamic. The concept of sustainability seems to have slightly more appeal than the other two certifications, even when clear definitions are provided. It is possible this may be due to the fact that the definition of sustainability includes equitable work practices for employees, as well as positive environmental actions. Organic and biodynamic definitions primarily focus on environmental practices.
Previous surveys focusing on this topic show that many consumers are confused by the multiple types of certifications, and that clear messaging must be included in order for the consumer to understand the benefits of the certification. Other surveys have also shown that many wine consumers already consider wine to be a natural product and are surprised to learn that there are certifications to insure organic and/or environmental practices. Due to this type of confusion, some wineries do not advertise the fact that they are certified or are using sustainable, organic and/or biodynamic practices. However, the results of this survey indicate that the timing may be more appropriate now to consider clearer communication on these positive farming practices.
It’s the Right Thing to Do
It should be noted, however, that there are many vineyard and winery owners around the world who elect to implement sustainable, organic, or biodynamic practices because they believe it is the right thing to do. They mention the long-term benefits for the planet, their families, and their local communities. For more information on this topic, see study published in Wine Spectator entitled: Is Being Sustainable Worth It for Wineries.