Allegrini 2024

Sustainability: the primary drivers are ethics, fear and quality. The model is the history of wine

Data and messages from the Ipsos and Symbola study, together with FEDERDOC. Ermete Realacci, “sustainability is essential, and an opportunity”

The study, “The context and approach to sustainability” by the global market research group, Ipsos and the foundation for Italian quality, Symbola and presented at the federation for the protection of DOC wines, FEDERDOC headquarters in Rome to Ermete Realacci, president of the Symbola Foundation, Giangiacomo Gallarati Scotti Bonaldi, president of FEDERDOC and Riccardo Ricci Curbastro, president of Equalitas. The study revealed that ethics, fear and quality are the three driving forces that make the consumer pay more attention to sustainability. Quality motivated 56.5% of those interviewed to make more responsible purchases. Fear, instead, especially regarding climate change and the future of the planet, was the driving force for 37% of those interviewed, while ethics was the main driver for the remaining 6.5%. The strong consumer interest in quality would mean that 71% were willing to pay more for a quality product in the wine sector, while the value of sustainability influenced the choice by 44%. Specifically, sustainability is synonymous with quality in the wine sector when it combines quality-taste (48% of participants), environmental certifications (40%), and ethical principles of the company’s activities (33%). The consumer’s perception of the equation sustainability/quality in the wine sector is very concrete, so much so that 60% of the interviewees said they strongly or somewhat strongly agree that the highest quality products are the most sustainable ones. And 56% of the participants considered themselves ethical and sustainable consumers when it comes to wine. The attention consumers pay to the concept of the quality of goods produced sustainably also represents a real cultural turning point. As a matter of fact, up until a few years ago, a product associated with sustainability was considered less “effective” and satisfying.
Strong consumer interest in the quality of sustainable products can be explained, the survey underlined, illustrated by Ilaria Ugenti, Service Line Leader Corporate Reputation Ipsos, through the process of the consumer gradually understanding the values and concepts underlying sustainability over the past few years. In 2018, 74% of the interviewees said it was somewhat or very difficult to understand the real sustainability of a company, while in 2022 that percentage dropped 14 points, to 60%. Plus, more than half of the respondents, 58%, said they either strongly or somewhat agree that wine companies are doing much more in the areas of sustainability and ethics. When asked which aspects of sustainability wineries should pay more attention to, 55% of the interviewees indicated cultivation techniques; however, processing (45%), packaging (40%) and disposal (42%) are also important.
“To deal with the climate crisis, sustainability is essential and it also gives us an extraordinary opportunity to relaunch our economy and produce jobs, as the survey carried out by the Symbola Foundation and Ipsos has shown”, Ermete Realacci, president of the Foundation for Italian Quality, Symbola, observed, “the consumers’ perception of the quality of goods produced in a sustainable way pushes them towards more responsible purchases. Wine is a formidable Italian ambassador the world over, and the survey has underlined that in Italy the strong relationships among quality productions, landscape, innovation and culture”.
The president of the Symbola Foundation told Winenews (which is a partner of Symbola, ed.) described the path the wine world has taken in recent decades towards sustainability. “We have a date for this transition”, Realacci said, and that is, “the methanol crisis, from which we re-started by changing the paradigm to quality linked to the territory, and increasing sustainability more any more. The biodiversity of Italian wine is the business card of the future. We have hundreds of native vines that are children of the Etruscans, Romans, Greeks, and Carthaginians who made wine here. This fact has allowed us to defend and establish ourselves, compared to the emerging enology - Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans, Chileans, Californians - who also make good wines but do not have the symbolic appeal of our wines”. “And this” , Realacci continued to Winenews, “is in turn connected to the idea of Italy. President Obama once said that when he goes to dinner with Michelle he orders an Italian wine. He definitely relies on the quality of the wine as well as the symbolic appeal of Italy. When you drink Italian wine, you think of places you would like to go, or you would like to live in; and, this is often an underestimated driving force”.
Giangiacomo Gallarati Scotti Bonaldi, president of FEDERDOC, observed that “the response from consumers places quality as the basic element, even in a discussion linked to sustainability, which is a fundamental message for the production world in our sector. He emphasized that the wine world had been going in this direction much before many other sectors, placing the search for quality at the top of its list”. “Research analysis”, added the president of FEDERDOC, “is fundamental because it explains how the issue of sustainability evolves for the consumer, which helps us promote more progressive activities and thereby to understand the consumer's needs better. It is an activity that we naturally promote as a federation within the protection consortium that we represent, we see that there is great adherence to these issues, adherence which is not easy because demonstrating that you are sustainable is very demanding, it determines a series of activities by the consortia and individual farms, objectives that also impose costs, but the fact of seeing that the consumer has a changing perception and that quality is perceived as added value gives us a boost in this direction”.
Riccardo Ricci Curbastro, president of Equalitas explained what the Equalitas standard means for sustainability, “in 2015, when FEDERDOC and its partners created the Equalitas standard for sustainability in the wine sector, the topic seemed futuristic, just a dream. Now, though, only eight years later, this study has given us an analysis of the expectations of the DO wine market that is beginning to ask for exactly what Equalitas has certified:, i.e., more than 30% of consumers demand ethics, attention to employees, and collaboration with the community. Along with requests for taste, environmental, and origin certifications we have the Equalitas sustainability standards - concrete and certified answers to questions that every consumer asks about their impact on the earth and its future”.

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