News: Uncorking identities in the wine industry

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Uncorking identities in the wine industry

New wine producers in South Africa struggle to enter the established domestic wine market. Students from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts in American, done a project investigating the importance of identity in wine consumption.


They conducted a survey to assess drivers of consumer-brand identification, a paired comparison of wine labels, and interviewed industry experts . Results indicated that identity does have an influence on consumer wine preferences, with black consumers identifying with labels displaying South African traits.


Additionally, brand prestige, social benefits, distinctiveness, and warmth influence wine purchasing preferences more generally. New producers should market their distinct identities (black, female) as they reveal warmth and familiarity to certain consumer segments, and can drive brand distinctiveness.


This project was designed by students David Bovich, Derek Kruzan, Rose Lewis and Jennifer Payano to provide evidence to support Women in Wine’s

understanding of domestic consumption of South African wine. This project was broken

down into three objectives:

1. Assessing the perceptions of industry professionals (producers, marketers, and

buyers) on consumer-brand identification and its influence on marketing strategies.

2. Exploring which drivers of consumer-brand identification are prevalent in the

consumption of wine.

3. Examining how gender, race, and nationality traits depicted on wine labels influence

domestic consumption of wine.


Their findings during the project

Saturation of the local market has kept many new producers from being able to grow

their presence domestically. Another hindrance is that established

brands of South Africa control most of the market because consumers are more familiar with

the established brands, suggesting greater brand prestige (and consumer-brand identity), and this leads to brand loyalty and commitment. Matome Mbatha, Market Manager, Wines of

South Africa explained that established brands, such as Fairview, have built up brand prestige with their establishment and this enables them to keep a consistent consumer base.


While government policies are in place to help new producers successfully enter and establish themselves in the market, new producers feel that current government policies are not sufficient. New producers feel that acquiring land is an important component of establishing themselves and will help in the long run to develop brand prestige.


However, many producers, such as Thembi Tobie of Thembi Wines, have been on

government developed land remittances wait lists for over a decade and have yet to acquire

Land. Tobie also described how not having land has kept her back from building

consumer-brand identification: “The whole world is coming here [for Cape Wine 2018]3


[but], where am I going to host my brands . . . it would be nice to host them, make them

come, taste the wine.” Beverly Farmer, Nondumiso Pikashe of Ses’fikile wines, and Vivian

Kleynhans of African Roots expressed similar frustrations.


The students spoke to participants to better understand what influenced their wine label

preferences and asked them to describe the different labels they viewed, revealing words such as “elegant,” “vintage,” and “classic” for Old World style labels. New World style labels, on the other hand, were described as having “unique,” “eye catching,” and “clean” or “easy to read” designs. These descriptors relate to the brand distinctiveness driver. However, consumers also believed that the wines with the New World style labels were of a lower quality, “cheap,” and “easy to drink.” Cheap was not always viewed as a negative in nature, especially with younger university students who appreciated economical wines.


Overall, consumers preferred Old World over New World style labels, and brand prestige seemed to be the motivating driver underlying this preference.


In a follow-up conversations with consumers, black consumers stated an appreciation for the South African identity in the label designs, such as the African animals in the crest (Demorgenzon), the depiction of the African continent (Cape Dreams), or knowing the wine was produced in South Africa or locally in Stellenbosch. Consumers indicated that they preferred labels with South African traits because they felt it represented them and their

national identity. These sentiments align with the brand self-similarity driver that is related to

CBI but not a strong predictor of it. Consumers also described how the images of South

Africa were inviting to them, suggesting the brand warmth driver may also play a role in

these preferences. Our conversations also revealed that many black consumers were

interested in the mission of the brands and associated the labels with South African traits to

companies that give back to the local community.


This suggests that the South African traits on wine labels may also invoke the social benefits driver as consumers might prefer the labels because it would elevate them in comparison to their peers because they purchased wine that supports local communities.