Assessing the Effects of the Environment on Consumers’ Evaluations for Wine

Gioacchino Pappalardo
Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment (Di3A), University of Catania

Gaetano Chinnici
Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment (Di3A), University of Catania

Roberta Selvaggi
Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment (Di3A), University of Catania

Biagio Pecorino
Department of Agriculture, Food and Environment (Di3A), University of Catania

Recently, companies operating in the agro-food industry have adopted business models related to environmental, economic and social sustainability (Schimmenti et al., 2016; Galati et al., 2019a). The wine industry has implemented initiatives aimed at both sustainability and changes in consumer behaviour, as purchasing decisions are increasingly influenced by environ-mental and social aspects, and at identifying web-marketing behavioural models (Galati et al., 2017; Iaia et al., 2017; Capitello et al., 2019).

Consumers’ willingness to pay for wine has increased for products that offer greater sustainability guarantees (Di Vita et al., 2019; Galati et al., 2019a). Until recently, scientific literature has focused its attention on the main factors influencing the behaviour of wine consumers. Reference literature is quite extensive and has focused on the consumer’s willingness to pay more for wines with particular characteristics of healthiness and environmental sustainability.

Consumer interest in both the quality and healthiness of the wines as well as the social and environmental impact of their consumption, has given rise to increased attention to the information displayed on the label as a tool to reduce the risk associated with wine purchasing (Galati et al., 2019b).

In this context, marketing strategies used in the wine sector by businesses are diversified by selling experiences, feelings and values that involve consumers on a personal level (Goode et al, 2010; Santini et al, 2013). From the perspective of ‘experiential marketing’ (Pine and Gilmore, 1999; Schmitt, 2010), these new strategies aim to satisfy a new demand from wine consumers towards intangible services related to tradition and the environment where the wine is produced and consumed (Pomarici et al, 2017). In the wine sector, experiential marketing is becoming increasingly important since the success of a wine hinges on ‘experiential’ features that include the hedonistic and symbolic values associated with emotions (Santini et al, 2011; Alebaki et al., 2015).

Emotions play an important role in many aspects of food consumption and have been widely analysed in scientific literature (Kotler, 1973; Mehrabian and Russell, 1974). Emotions, broadly defined as a complex state of feelings that translate into physical and psychological changes that can influence thinking and behavior (Spinelli, 2017), are important for marketing organizations as they help them understand consumer behaviour and have some control over post-purchase behaviour. In the wine sector, an interesting aspect regards the effects of emotions related to the environment wine is consumed in as evaluated by consumers. These ‘environmental’ emotions are important factors when experiential marketing is put into practice and can be expected to influence consumers’ decision-making (Platania et al., 2016a). Stimuli from the place of consumption can influence the sensory and psychological markers associated with wine consumption (Orth and Bourrain, 2005).

The characteristics of wine destinations also affect consumers’ intentions to revisit wine regions (Bonn et al., 2016). Motivations as a basis for segmenting tourism markets have provided information on why consumers desire to visit wine destinations and regions (Bruwer et al., 2018).One aspect that has not been fully explored yet in scientific literature concerns the extent to which the emotions aroused by the environment where wine is consumed are able to influence consumers’ evaluation of it. To our knowledge, no study has examined whether the emotional state aroused by the environment consumers evaluate food in persists after the consumer has experienced visiting a place capable of arousing such emotions.

This is an important topic for both companies and marketers since marketing practices related to the environment can lead to an increase in consumer demand for wine. For this purpose, in this study we assess whether the emotions related to the environment wine is consumed in affects consumers’ WTP for wine. In the wine sector, previous studies have shown that the environment wine consumed in can stimulate behavioural responses among consumers that can lead to wine purchases (Platania et al., 2016a, Sturiale and Scuderi, 2017).

Environmental attributes that influence the consumption of wine can be related to the place of consumption (Orth and Bourrain, 2005; Platania et al., 2016b), region of origin (Lange et al., 2002; Alant and Bruwer, 2004; Yuan et al., 2005; Vecchio, 2013) and cultural attractions of the production site which are capable of developing emotions in highly motivated consumers who come from places far from the production area (Getz and Brown, 2006). Understanding how the environment affects wine evaluation and consumption remains an unresolved issue. Specifically, one interest-ing issue that has not been fully explored yet which we analysed in our study relates to the emotions aroused by attractive environments(Voss et al., 2008; Candi et al., 2013; Creusen et al., 2018) which can enhance the hedonic and symbolic value of a product (Chitturi et al., 2008; Teng et al., 2007; Reimann et al., 2010; Candi et al., 2017).

With the purpose of observing whether the emotions related to attractive environments affect consumers’ wine evaluation, we conducted a non-hypothetical experimental auction in Italy to estimate the experiential effects of the emotions on consumers’ WTP for wine. The experiment involved recruiting people to blindly evaluate three types of wine in conditions of emotions aroused by the environment of Mt. Etna in Sicily, the largest volcano in Europe and one of the most well-known wine areas in Italy.


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