The role and influence of wine awards as perceived by the South African wine consumers
CITATION: Herbst, F. J. & Von Armin, C. 2009. The role and influence of wine awards as perceived by the South African wine consumers. Acta Commercii, 9(1): 90-101, doi: 10.4102/ac.v9i1.100.
The original publication is available at http://www.actacommercii.co.za
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine whether, in the mind of the consumer, wine awards do indeed play a significant role in influencing consumer choices. Initially, a literature review was conducted to establish the role of wine awards in wine marketing. Problem investigated: The increasing number of wine competitions appears to dilute the value of wine awards as a marketing tool. The local wine consumers are currently bombarded by a variety of wine choices and need to use cues to assist them in making buying decisions. Consumers are also sceptical about the honesty of producers in marketing their awards. The question arises, whether, in the minds of South Africa's wine consumers, awards play a strong enough role in influencing their choice when buying wine. Research design: A convenience sample was drawn among South African wine consumers by using an online survey questionnaire. A sample of 285 was realised and the data analysed by using descriptive and inferential statistical methods. Findings and implications: Wine awards are indeed recognised by the consumer as a cue that shapes their choices / selection criteria, but their importance is relatively low compared to other cues such as variety, vintage, producer, production method, packaging, place of origin and price. Yet, having established that decision-making is a complex set of interactions, wine awards do nevertheless play a role in supporting a decision in certain circumstances and for certain customer segments. Generally speaking, it was found that the more sophisticated a consumer (connoisseur) is the less regard exists for wine awards. Not only do wine awards have lesser power in shaping decisions, but also attitudes towards the concept of wine awards are more negative. Lesser informed consumers tend to take more guidance from, and are less opinionated about the concept of wine awards. An independent monitoring authority is seen as a solution to raise the profile of wine awards in South Africa, thus creating more credibility and power for this tool. Value of the research: Although a representative sample was not drawn, the wine consumers included in this study strongly suggested that an independent authority is needed to monitor wine awards in South Africa. This could enhance the value of wine awards as a marketing tool, whilst wine awards and medals should be aimed at the less informed segments of the local market. Conclusion: The study revealed that while wine awards are indeed recognised by the majority of consumers as a cue that shapes their choices, the importance thereof is relatively low compared to other elements of the marketing mix. Wine producers and marketers should use wine awards only to support other quality claims.