In Consumer

Previously we focused on consumer preference with regards to wine selection, as well as the major influencing factors. Part two of this topic continues looking at trends from around the world, information which is critical when you are exporting your wine. So what catches the eye and wallet of the foreign wine buyer?


In Australia in 2007, a study looking at the preference of 740 consumers with regards to 16 attributes, showed that brand was the most important attribute when consumers displayed preference for a wine, followed by price, region of origin and medals or awards (4). In contrast, another Australian study in the same year, found higher loyalty towards price than any other attribute, including brand, region of origin or variety (17). So a consumer would rather choose a different brand or variety before buying a product in a different price category. As far as the provision of product information goes, consumers were more likely to choose Australian wines than American ones when provided with information about the wine regions or innovative wine production in Australia (6). In 2006 it was found that ‘someone recommending a wine’ and ‘having tasted it previously’ were key attributes to in determining consumer preference, while in=store promotion and information and attractive labels were least important (18).


An American consumer survey found that the segment of consumers that preferred sweet wines, were primarily female, young, adventurous, willing to try new wines, easily embarrassed when confronted by wine authority, wanted to be engaged and their confidence built in their wine preference and they need personalised advice on wine and food pairings. In contrast, consumers who preferred a more intense type of wine style, were more likely to be male, a little older, more confident in choosing wine and wine and food pairings, while preferring dry wines that are complex, balanced and full-bodied (10). With this knowledge you can now focus marketing efforts on the consumer segment that your particular wine appeals to.


In a study of Spanish consumers in 2011, ‘it is matching food’ was found to be the most important attribute, followed by designation of origin, then ‘I tasted it previously’, grape variety, and country of origin. Vintage and ‘someone recommended it’ were of less importance and brand name and ‘I read about it’ were found to be not at all important and as expected, label design was the least important attribute when consumers had to choose a wine. Price was found to be unimportant when consumers were selecting premium red wines, as they expected the price to be higher and as a result paid more attention to other attributes (11).


In 2008 it was found that direct, personal and sensorial experience are the most important attributes when consumers select a wine. Certain elements that influence the choice of consumers include attractiveness of label, variety of grapes, brand and region of origin. As expected, the impact of these attributes differ significantly depending on certain variables, of which involvement towards wine, frequency of consumption and geographical province seem to be the most influential (9).


Using a trained panel to generate sensory attributes for 6 Canadian wines combining it with the preference data of consumers, a research group was able to identify the drivers of liking for these wines, in other words, identify which sensory attributes are responsible for a consumer liking a specific wine. For the Chardonnay wine, fruity, spicy, vanilla and oak aromas were identified, while vanilla and oak characters were drivers of liking in two red wines. When wines were evaluated in a blind tasting, two groupings of sensory characteristics were identified. When additional information of the wines was provided, a third grouping was identified. This reveals that extrinsic cues can affect the sensory experience of a consumer (14).

In a study of the most influential attributes in different countries, including Australia, UK, China, Germany and Israel, ‘I tasted the wine previously’ and ‘someone recommended it’, were always amongst the top three most influential attributes (19). This means that promotional activities allowing consumers to experience your wine before purchase could significantly influence the buying potential of your wine.

As previously mentioned, the importance of these attributes differs among market segments. Two factors that play a significant role in segmenting consumer preference are gender and age.


Women:    rate colours, images, pictures and logos higher than men
find black labels significantly more confusing, hard to read and too much information
consider wax seals an indication of freshness and foil coverings an indication of quality
more reliant on shelf information than men who read about wine at home (9)
prefer wine in medium price bracket ($10-14) while men favour %25+ bracket (17)
more consistent in wine choice whereas men are less prone to buy same wine twice (17)

Men:           prefer to know significantly more about vintage and cultivar than women
favour red wine (17)


Consumers can also be segmented based on their age: traditionalists (born 1900-1944), Baby Boomers (born 1945-1964), Generation X (born 1965-1976) and Generation Y or Millennials (born 1977-2000). There are distinct differences between the purchasing behaviours of the different segments (17). Because consumers in the different segments drink wine for different reasons, a winemaker needs to understand the motivation of the consumer in order to adjust marketing strategies according to meet the desired requirements of each segment (17). While the Baby Boomers are the most significant segment in terms of purchase and consumption, Generation Y is emerging as an important segment due to their increasing buying power. This generation is growing up in a media-savvy, brand-conscious world, and an almost unlimited access to information, seeing as nearly 100% of Generation Y is connected to the Internet. This generation is displaying the largest increase in consumption compared to the other segments, making this a growing market with increasing market power (22).

Besides Generation Y that is being identified as an emerging market, China is a country ripe for the picking.


Due to the sheer size of the consumer base, estimated at an astonishing 200 million people, China has become a prime export target. Furthermore, the entry of China into the World Trade Organization implies drastic reductions in tax and tariffs. Even though exports to China are down, consumption figures are still on the increase, with a further increase of 54% predicted for the period of 2011 to 2015. Consumption is estimated at 300 million bottles of wine per year and nearly all red wine. As for the Chinese consumer, they prefer red wines with meals and the sweeter the better. Any arguments about the health benefits of wine are well-received and whereas everyday wine consumption is almost non-existent, the primary reason for purchase is gift-giving. Chinese consumers like to sample wines before they buy, prefer discount-stores, are impulsive buyers and have no knowledge on Chine food pairings with wine. Some of the more important drivers of liking for consumers include the price, where $10-15 per bottle is preferred, followed by the $5-10 range, prior knowledge of the wine or a recommendation, followed by in-store tastings (8). The country of origin is also very important for Chinese consumers. These consumers also prefer prestige/stately labels and show preference for brands featuring flowers, gold, animals, dragons or even cartoon characters.

While there is an absence of a wine culture in China, consumers still need and want more information pertaining to wine and health, wine etiquette and finding good value wines and the major sources of this information have been identified as consumer reports, newspaper columns and tasting experiences in-store (8). As for their taste in wine, consumers prefer sweet red wines with aromas of berries, plums and cherries, while strong wood characters are also appreciated. Preferred varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel, as well as wines with one powerful aroma, rather than a bouquet. It is important to target those consumers that are not afraid to try new wines and enjoy the diversity of choice (8). In order to enter this market, cellars will need to produce mid-range red wine that matches Chinese food, as well as pricier red wines in elaborate packaging to address the tradition of Chinese gift-giving. In addition, having Chinese people to promote you brand will overcome both the language and culture barriers.

The SA wine consumer

The consumption per capita in South Africa is still much lower than in other producing countries and by researching the purchasing behaviour of South African consumers, it is possible to improve and understand the South African wine market (17). The average South African consumer spends approximately R200 to R299.99 per month on wine, 50% consume 1 to 12 glasses of wine per month and spend an average of R25 to R49.99 on a bottle of wine. The majority (53%) prefer red wine, with variety (40%), price (20%), origin/brand (10%), word of mouth (10%), wine awards (5%) and packaging (2%) being the most important attributes when choosing a bottle of wine. Preferred points of sale include the cellar door, liquor stores and the supermarket. A consumer survey in 2010 found that there is correlation between the purchasing behaviour of South African consumers and demographic variables. Similar to other countries, males spend on average more on a bottle of wine and had a higher wine knowledge compared to females. More males favour red wines and natural cork and consumers are willing to pay more for a bottle of red wine than white (17).

The only way to ensure success in the market, be it domestic or foreign, is to understand consumer preferences for wine flavours and extrinsic factors that influence purchase behaviour, consumption and repeat purchase (14). It is possible to select suitable target markets with the appropriate knowledge of consumer segments and the wine origins they prefer (12). Quality, good value and variety seem to be the most important wine features, while brand, distribution, price and extrinsic factors are better predictors of sales that the sensory characteristics of the wine (6).

It is possible to measure flavour-related chemical compounds in wine, generate descriptors with a trained panel and generate like/dislike descriptors with a consumer panel and use this information to identify what descriptors are responsible for consumer-liking and the aroma compounds responsible for them (15).

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