Wine ingredients on the label: how will consumers react?

A study concluded that the real impact on the ingredient labeling process will be determined by how the media will report the issue.

by Emanuele Fiorio

Since 2017, the European Commission has been asking that the wine ingredients be listed on the back of wine labels.  The World Health Organization also wants labeling as part of its plan to reduce the harmful use of alcohol. As a first step, the European Commission asked the wine industry to present a proposal for self-regulation.

One of the critical points will be the question of what an ingredient is actually. For example, is a processing aid an ingredient even if it is dispersed? This is one the of the questions that make the inclusion of ingredients on the label a thorny topic within the wine industry. Recently the debate has exploded both within European bodies and in the international media.

But what do consumers want?
As Wine Business International reports, Evelyn Pabst and Professor Dr Simone Loosedue, researchers from the University of Geisenheim in Germany have designed a study , in collaboration with Italian and Australian colleagues, to examine how consumers react to the inclusion of ingredients on the label.

They recruited 745 Australians, 716 Germans and 715 Italians and presented them with three different types of labels.

A label presented sensory information on wine, ingredients, price. Another offered sensory information, food pairings, calories and added sulfites.The last label had no sensory information, but a complete nutritional table showing data such as calories, fat, carbohydrates, sodium and so on, plus a complete list of ingredients.

Consumers were not shown the front label, to make sure they weren’t influenced by the brand information.

The results differed from one market to another. The Germans and the Australians were more influenced by sensory information, while the Italians from the regional origin. They were also more interested in nutritional information than their peers in Australia and Germany.

Either way, the report ended that “if consumers are not actively confronted with the issue, the lists of ingredients for wine have a very low influence on the selection of wines”.

The researchers also wanted to test how the media debate on the ingredients of wine can have an impact on purchasing behavior. They divided their consumer groups into three. The first received a negative article that spoke of chemical additives and accused the wine industry of deceiving consumers; the second received a positive article entitled “how different ingredients bring benefits to wine” and nothing was shown to the third group.  What the researchers found was that consumers pay much more attention to the ingredients after being exposed to a media debate on the subject and are less concerned with sensory descriptions.

The researchers concluded that ingredient labeling is unlikely to have much impact on consumer behavior. The real impact will be determined by how the media report the issue. “The short-term effects of widespread negative media coverage should not be underestimated,” the report concluded.

Given the problems associated with creating a list of ingredients for wine, the labeling legislation could be very long. But the issue is already affecting the wine media and the wine industry must think about how it will react when it spreads in the traditional media.


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