Research from the University of South Australia and the University of Adelaide has shone light on consumer preferences in wine packaging, as well as how attributes such as price, brand and messaging play a role in their choices.
For centuries, the glass wine bottle has been the standard packaging choice for the wine industry, partly due to the belief that wine looks and tastes better in glass. However, glass packaging is not the most carbon-friendly option available.
The researchers, from both University of South Australia’s Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science and University of Adelaide’s Business School, pointed out that conventional glass wine bottles are the wine industry’s largest source of carbon emissions, with the manufacture of a single bottle generating 1.25kg of carbon dioxide. In total, the production and transport of glass wine bottles make up more than two thirds of the wine industry’s total carbon output.
Lead researcher Jakob Mesidis said previous wine packaging research has largely focused on wine label and closure (cork or screw-top) preferences, but little attention has been paid to the format of the packaging.
“We knew that consumers weren’t buying alternatively packaged wine at the same rate they were buying it bottled, so we wanted to know what we should change to motivate them to choose more sustainable options,” he said.
Australia’s main alternative wine packaging formats are the ‘bag-in-box’ (cask wine) and aluminium cans, although new formats, such as flat plastic wine bottles, are gradually entering the market.
These alternative formats are reportedly up to 51 per cent more carbon efficient than glass, but Mesidis says Australian consumers are hesitant to adopt these more environmentally friendly options.
“There are some underlying prejudices in relation to alternative wine packages as they are seen as the cheaper, low-quality option when compared to glass bottles, which come with a sense of heritage and luxury,” he said.
“Canned wine has seen a rise in popularity but is still a small portion of the market. Flat bottles have only recently been introduced to Australia but have grown in popularity overseas.”
In a survey of 1200 Australians, the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute found that cask wine and flat plastic wine bottles were the most preferred formats after traditional glass bottles. Cans were the least preferred, as they were closely tied to specific occasions, such as drinking outdoors.
The researchers also found that package format was the biggest influence on people’s choices. Price came second, while the importance of brand and eco-messaging varied depending on the respondent’s age and tendency to engage in eco-friendly behaviour.
Alternative wine formats were found to be typically bought more by younger people. Consumers were found to be more likely to choose alternative wine packaging when it is priced at a mid-to-low price range and if it comes from a well-known, prestigious brand.
“If a smaller, less-known winery’s mission is to grow its brand as much as possible, relying solely on alternatively packaged wines is not the way to go. Most Australians – for the time being – are still going to reach for a glass bottle when they’re at the shops,” Mesidis said.
“Larger, more prestigious brands are likely to see more success with alternatively packaged wine. Ultimately, this research provides wine marketers with a foundation for their low-carbon wine packaging strategies, rather than blindly navigating this relatively new field.
Mesidis concluded, “Research in this space is still young and there is exciting work to be done to better understand this burgeoning part of the wine industry.”