Organic wine beginning to catch on with consumers

Academics from the Harvard Business School believe it is the “purity” in taste and the charm of local winemaking tradition often associated with organic wine that proved to be powerful marketing tools that helped turn the category around. Geoffrey Jones and Emily Grandjean, explain in the Harvard Business Review, how they set out to understand how and why the category of organic wine failed to emerge, even as demand for other organic goods soared.
Through historical research and many interviews, we found several ways in which early stumbles in the organic wine market created marketing problems that the industry still struggles to overcome. However, we also found that the recent success of a related category — biodynamic wines — shows a possible way forward.
Early organic wine was not well received in the marketplace, for a number of reasons, Jones and Grandjean write. First, the conventional wine industry saw it as a threat. Organic wine was not strongly embraced by distributors and retailers, either. The product was perceived as more prone to spoilage since it typically lacked added sulfites. It needed to overcome a persistent reputation for poor quality after some wines turned vinegar-like and garnered bad reviews. A 2014 study showed that adding the word “organic” to the label of a wine bottle was associated with a 20% reduction in price, even though other organic goods routinely sell at a price premium.
Yet by the 2010s, organic wine had become popular in fine-dining restaurants in major cosmopolitan cities like Paris and New York. The celebrated, Copenhagen-based restaurant Noma featured a wine menu made up entirely of organic wines.
Some traditional wine industry associations have dropped their opposition to organic wines. And retailers like Sweden’s Systembolaget, the state-owned alcohol monopoly, aggressively expanded the sale of bottles of organic wine by prominently displaying them in shops. While 6% of the wine sold at Systembolaget in 2011 was organic, by 2016 it was over 20%.
What changed? The “purity” in taste and the charm of local winemaking tradition often associated with organic wine proved to be powerful marketing tools that helped turn the category around. The product was increasingly in demand by individuals who sought artisan-made wines with clear terroir, and who desired to consume products with as few added chemicals as possible. In an increasingly globalized 21st century world, organic wine had become a potent symbol of localized place and culture strongly tied to the past century.

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