Abstract: Purpose - There is empirical evidence that the image of organic products has a stronger effect on consumer perception than the intrinsic characteristics. Against this background, the aim of this paper is twofold; first, to ascertain if the stimulus "organic food", placed by storytelling, influences the perception of wine. Based on this, the study tries to discover wherein a positive perception of organic wine might be reflected (e.g. willingness to pay premium prices, better taste perception). Design/methodology/approach - Focusing on the consumer perception and evaluation of conventional versus organic wine, it was decided to use an experimental design with a blind taste test procedure. The prediction was that subjects would rank a wine described as organic higher than a conventional wine even if there is no objective difference. Consumer perceptions and attitudes toward the wines were assessed using a questionnaire including wine preference, buying and recommendation intention, and willingness to pay. Besides, consumer wine knowledge and consumer personal environmental orientation were measured as individual constructs. Findings - In accordance with existing research insights, consumers tend to prefer organic products over conventional ones. In this context, the experiment shows that adding information on the product's process during a blind test leads consumers to increase their ratings in favour of the "organic wine". Interesting is that consumers even give a better rating for "conventional wine" just described as being "organic", indicating that the appearance and taste are perceived to be better, and the price intention is higher - thus, a pure signalling effect is achieved. Originality/value - The key finding of the study was that even if they tasted the identical product, the respondents ascribe a significantly better taste to the organic-labelled wine compared to the conventional alternative. Besides, the willingness to recommend the organic wine and the willingness to pay differed significantly from the evaluation of the red wine presented as "conventional". Moreover, regardless of their knowledge and attitude towards organic products in general, all respondents rated the so-called organic wine higher in all given attributes.
Reference: Wiedmann, K. P., et al. (2014). Tasting green: an experimental design for investigating consumer perception of organic wine. British Food Journal 116(2): 197-211. Available online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/BFJ-04-2012-0090