Thursday, December 21, 2017

New Survey from Sonoma State: 56% of Consumers Prefer Organic and Biodynamic Standards (Versus "Sustainable")


A new survey of more than 300 consumers conducted by Sonoma State University's Wine Business Institute (and published on professor Liz Thach's web site here) says consumers do indeed value organic and Biodynamic certification. And surprisingly, the certification that most think is the most obscure - Biodynamic - came out ahead of organic, which is a household word.



The first question in the report focused on what interested consumers most and, while it's not surprising, with the definitions provided, that sustainable comes out ahead, what is truly remarkable is that Biodynamics comes out at 36 percent - a mere 8 percent behind sustainability. Given that hardly anyone knows what Biodynamics means - and if they think they do, they usually associate it with moonbeams and a certain Austrian philosopher - this is nothing short of incredible.

Organic comes out at 20%. 

The 300+ person sample was weighted towards Millenials (65%) and women (74%).

The big news here is that 56 percent of the surveyed consumers prefer organic or Biodynamic standards to the wine industry's heavily marketed "certified sustainable" category. 

COSTS

The survey went into consumers' willingness to pay more for ecocertified wines, a topic which is not on many people's minds because right now there is no price premium consumers pay for certified wines. However, it may be an important motivator for growers who don't think there is a marketplace reward for what some think will be more costly farming practices.

The myth that it costs a lot to be certified still continues to be an issue, despite the fact that the costs are relatively low compared to the overall cost of producing and marketing a bottle of wine. (See my Wines & Vines article "What It Costs to be Certified Organic or Biodynamic".) You can read the complete, original article including the all important cost charts here. If that link doesn't work go to this downloadable pdf of the entire Dec. 2015 issue of Wines & Vines where it originally appeared.

(The version of the article that pops up on Google omits the cost chart.)

What is still outstanding for most growers is the understanding of how much it costs for them to farm organically or Biodynamically - costs which usually boil down to two main issues:

1. mechanical weed control (organic) versus using glyphosate, a carcinogenic herbicide that is permitted and widely used by "sustainable" and conventional growers. Glyphosate will be banned in France in 3 years and its use has been restricted in Italy and the UK.

2. fungicides mixed with imidacloprid (a bird and bee toxin banned in the UK and Europe to protect bee health)

Meanwhile wineries that grow organically or Biodynamically charge no more for their wines - in each price and quality point - than their competitors - even though the chart below suggests that people would be willing to pay more.



I'm interested in talking to the authors of the study about their research and hope to publish more about the survey findings here soon.