EP 2 - Searching for organic growth


Effective communication is the organic wine industry’s biggest challenge, according to a prize-winning academic paper from Wine Intelligence Germany’s Evelyn Pabst and Geisenheim researcher Prof. Gergely Szolnoki. 

Evelyn, who works for Wine Intelligence’s German office, has been awarded a ‘Best Paper Award’ at the Academy of Wine Business Research Conference at Sonoma State University, for her qualitative research into the successful marketing of organic wine, supervised by Prof. Gergely Szolnoki from Geisenheim University. She attended the conference in her capacity as a current PhD student at Geisenheim University in Germany. The study is the culmination of the analysis of producers and retailers in Germany, with the ultimate goal of identifying the factors which lead to a discrepancy between producers’ supply of, and consumers’ demand for, organic wine in Germany.

The study consulted 21 organic wineries and 14 different types of retailers using semi-structured in-depth interviews. An additional 20 store tests helped to support the findings of the data collected from members of the German trade. The picture emerging from the research is one of an industry struggling to communicate effectively the ‘organic’ message to the consumer. The vast majority of consumers already have deeply entrenched shopping habits, preferring to base their wine buying decision on factors such as wine quality, taste and relationship with the brand. The organic status of a wine is incidental, particularly for consumers who are unfamiliar with and have little knowledge of organic wine.

In the eyes of the conference organisers, the researchers’ focus on the practical implications for the wider wine industry set their paper apart. They conclude that there is a need to stimulate an active demand of organic wine by consumers in order to drive demand from further up the supply chain, from retailers and importers. It identifies the use of organic stores as a distribution channel as a method of engaging the already initiated.

Communication, the paper posits, is the key sticking point. Active communication through organic wine producers and retailers, and better communication of organic status through wine labels, will help educate consumers. The latest Germany Landscapes 2017 report by Wine Intelligence (due for publication in the next few weeks) shows that ‘shelf displays of taste or wine style descriptions’ is the second most important choice cue for regular wine drinkers in Germany, with 70% indicating that they are important or very important when selecting wine. Effectively exploiting this opportunity to its fullest and informing consumers that a wine is organic (and, more broadly, explain what organic is) at the point of purchase could have a sizeable impact on sales.

Wine Intelligence and Geisenheim University signed a research partnership agreement in 2015 in order to work together on developing new intellectual capital from existing data and insights.



‘Successful marketing of organic wine – a qualitative analysis of producers and retailers’, Evelyn Pabst (Geisenheim University), Prof. Dr. Gergely Szolnoki (Geisenheim University), Prof. Dr. Roland Herrmann (Giessen University)
Wine Intelligence, Germany Landscapes 2017

Author: Evelyn Pabst

Email: Evelyn@wineintelligence.com