Investigating consumers’ emotional response to wine
How do you feel when drinking wine and why? They’re the questions at the core of a broad and novel research project led by the University of Adelaide that aims to identify how wine flavour effects our emotions – and ultimately what role those emotions have in the desire to drink a particular wine at certain occasions and purchase more wine.
University of Adelaide academic in oenology and manager of the Sensory Research Facility Dr Sue Bastian is leading the three-and-a-half year research project, funded by the GWRDC.
‘“Excited” sums up my staffs’ and collaborators’ emotions about this project – as it’s breaking new and important research ground for the wine industry’, Dr Bastian said.
This project is a collaborative one between the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia.
‘Globally at other universities and research centres and in Australia, there’s been much work done in the area of sensory analysis of wine – we can quite accurately describe the sensory attributes of wine that consumers like and don’t like.
‘But knowing what flavours they like is not enough. In a world where wines have increasingly similar characteristics, packaging and price, we need to learn from what the food industry has been doing for several years now and obtain better knowledge of wine-elicited emotion in consumers for product differentiation and how those emotions influence purchase intent.
‘Industry can then use this information for marketing and to increase the acceptability of our wines’, she said.
The project’s first step, using a focus group of 113 wine consumers, was to take an existing emotions measuring scale applicable to food (Richins, 1997), and adapt it to wine and the emotional language and descriptors more common to Australian wine consumers.
Using Shiraz, Dr Bastian said the project will ask 300 wine consumers to use the wine emotion scale to best reflect the emotions they feel based on both wine flavour and mouthfeel.
‘As part of the project, we spoke to several key industry people to help us identify what and how many distinct levels of ‘quality’ could be perceived in Australian Shiraz’, she said.
‘They identified four distinct levels. Quality of wine has an important role to play in consumer preferences, so we wanted to be sure we used wine from across the full spectrum of quality’.
One hundred wines were sourced from all over Australia and categorized into one of four quality levels using an expert panel; detailed sensory profiles were generated for 40 of these and the final 12 wines selected will be tasted by the 300 wine consumers.
Beginning in July, the consumers will be asked to describe their emotions while drinking the wine in three distinct locations – at home, in a restaurant and in the lab.
‘We want to investigate the validity of the results generated in a lab setting compared with realistic environments – while also demonstrating how the different environments may affect the consumers’ emotional responses’, she said.
‘Eventually, we’d hope the findings offer some really useful strategies for the wine industry to better understand their consumer and to develop wines that play to their emotional drivers’.
The project is also seeking to better define the wine neophobes and neophiles among us.
‘We now know a neophobic wine consumer is someone who is hesitant to try something new, and who will likely seek the advice of a sales person, trusted wine writer or friend before purchase. And the neophiles are those more likely to go for the new and different in their wine choices’, she said.
‘But we felt that there was an opportunity here, as part of the project, to try and identify who exactly these people are’.
A scale used first in the clinical setting has been adapted with the help of 313 consumers to define specific neophilic and neophobic wine consumer segments and their behaviour.
Using the new wine neophobia scale, Dr Bastian and her team conducted an online survey of 3000 wine consumers in the UK, US and Australia.
‘Using the responses, we want to identify any different degrees of new wine acceptability and emotional response from consumers of various backgrounds encompassing region, culture, income, gender, education and wine knowledge, amongst other important traits, that allow us to best identify them in the marketplace’, she said.
‘Hopefully the wine industry will be able to use this data, much as the food and perfume industries already do – and develop products and campaigns that target the neophiles and have them become early adopters and fans of certain new products and for brand boosting’.