Background and aim of the study
Nowadays, changes in consumer demands in many primary sector markets are constantly driving changes in the value chains that primary industries participate in (e.g. organic food, products with indication of origin, vegan food). There is an increasing expectation that products should have environmental sustainability credentials in their production process (Guenther et al. 2012), such as information about climate change impacts (Rousseau and Vranken 2013).
Several environmental attributes are strictly related with wine production: organic production, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water use, waste production, soil protection, landscape creation or conservation, local climate conditions, and terroir. It should be noted that some of these attributes are correlated, for example, local climate conditions and terroir.
Most of these attributes, especially local climate conditions, terroir, organic production, and water use, affect the intrinsic characteristics of grapes and therefore the quality of wine. At the same time, the whole wine supply chain, in a global context, strongly influences the environment, particularly in terms of GHG emissions, water use, and landscape, the main environmental externalities of the wine production system. (Bosco et al. 2011; Colman and Päster 2009; Cholette and Venkat 2009; Niccolucci et al. 2008; Pattara et al. 2015; Rugani et al. 2013; Santini et al. 2013; Soja et al. 2010; Waye 2008).
Consumer demand usually takes into account the different characteristics of the wine, such as price, origin, and production process, but also some environmental factors could be relevant in the purchase choices. Consumers’ behaviour can be analysed as an ethical consumption phenomenon; this is defined as the purchasing decisions made by people concerned with not only the price of products and services but also with the political, social, and environmental consequences of their purchases (Carlsson et al. 2010, Coff et al. 2008; Cohen and Vandenbergh 2012; Delmas and Grant 2008; Guenther et al. 2012; Liebe et al. 2014; Roos and Tjarnemo 2011; Rousseau and Vranken 2013; Sudbury-Riley and Kohlbacher 2016).
Currently, among the different characteristics of ethical demands of wine, it is particularly interesting to analyse Italian consumers’ attitudes toward two specific attributes: ‘carbon footprint claim’ and ‘winescape aesthetic’ (or ‘landscape beauties’). This is because carbon footprint claim is linked to the pressing GHG emission issue (Rugani et al. 2013) and winescape aesthetic refers to the emerging importance of the agricultural landscape value (Tempesta et al. 2010). There is a lack of research about Italian millennials wine consumption behaviour about these two attributes of wine.
These elements of consumer demand, including ethical ones, can be analysed using the Lancaster approach developed in the so-called ‘new theory of consumer demand’ (Lancaster 1966), where consumers are not seeking to acquire goods themselves but the characteristics they contain.
It is necessary to recognize that consumers’ willingness to pay (WTP) for the same ethical attribute may differ significantly from country to country depending on the social, cultural, and traditional contexts of the different countries; however, at the same time, it is possible to find some common trend (Liebe et al. 2014; McCluskey and Loureiro 2003; Sudbury-Riley and Kohlbacher 2016).
However, specific groups of consumers in different countries may have very similar attitudes toward some particular ethical attributes; such behaviour is driven by age, culture, social habits, or other common characteristics that mainly determine consumers’ preferences, despite the existence of other relevant differences among people.
This is the case of millennials, the demographic cohort born between the early 1980s to around 2000, who express their own cohort dynamics with common behaviours in different countries in relation to environmental commitment and consumption preferences (Bakewell and Mitchell 2003; Noble et al. 2009). They are expected to show such behaviour toward wine consumption as well (Teagle et al. 2010; Wolf and Thomas 2007).
Different methods can be used to estimate millennials’ WTP for the two ethical attributes of interest of wine—carbon footprint claim and winescape aesthetic, among these some of the most used are contingent valuation method (CV), conjoint analysis (CA), and choice experiments (CE). In particular, CE have been used most often in recent literature (Breidert et al. 2006; Louviere et al. 2010).
This study investigates whether young consumers, namely, millennials of age 18–34 years, select wines on the basis of carbon dioxide emission levels or winescape aesthetic. The aim is to estimate how millennials evaluate wine’s aesthetic and environmentally sustainable attributes and to explore which one is prevalent.
Wine carbon footprint
Nowadays, there is a general consensus among most climate scientists that GHG emissions generated by human activities are the main drivers of climate change.
Food production is one of the economic activities that pose major pressures on the environment. In particular, agriculture, forestry, and land use change are responsible for 20–24% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture activity alone is considered directly responsible of global GHG emissions for a percentage that is estimated from 10 to 12 to 17%; an additional 7–14% is related to changes in land use. The contribution of the agri-food supply chain, including input suppliers for the agricultural sector, agriculture, food industry, logistics activities and transportation of goods, distribution, and waste management, is obviously much higher (Akaichi et al. 2016; Bertoni et al. 2018; OECD 2016; Smith et al. 2014).
This contribution is, in any case, expected to increase in the future owing to the growing demand for foods (Breustedt 2014; Smith et al. 2014). Consequently, many climate change experts have recommended the implementation of improved management practices in agriculture and the whole agri-food supply chain to increase the production of foods with lower GHG emissions (Van Doorslaer et al. 2015).
The carbon footprint (CF), defined as ‘the total set of GHG emissions caused directly and indirectly by an individual, organization, event, or product’, is being used increasingly to effectively communicate sustainability efforts to consumers. This key indicator ‘environmental sustainability’ plays a primary role in environmental issues concerning farm activities and agricultural practices.
To determine opportunities for mitigating climate change, it is essential to be aware of the amount and sources of GHG emissions. One method for this is life cycle assessment (LCA) of a product. CF is a LCA that measures the GHG contribution from a product or activity (Čuček et al. 2012; Fang and Heijungs 2015). CF often comprises emissions during the whole chain from raw material, production processes, transport, trade, and use to disposal or recycling (Soja et al. 2010). A CF value of 0 means that an activity is carbon neutral, that is, it does not contribute to global warming because it results in no net release of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Carbon neutrality can be achieved by minimizing GHG emissions and then balancing the rest of the emissions with an equal amount of carbon offsets by supporting third-party-certified external projects for renewable energy with the generation of carbon credits (Rugani et al. 2013).
In this scenario, it is interesting to note that viticulture is one of the most diffused cultivations in the world, and therefore, wine and grapes are one of the top products in the agricultural market (OIV 2018). Total worldwide wine consumption has increased in recent years.
In particular, in 2016, worldwide wine consumption was estimated at 242 million hl, quantity that has stabilized since the 2008 economic crisis. The USA, with almost 32 million hl, confirmed its position as the largest consumer country in the world since 2011, followed by France (27.0 million hl), Italy (22.5 million hl), Germany (20.2 million hl), and China (17.3 million hl). In recent years, consumption had remained relatively stable in France, Italy, and Spain, while it has increased in the USA and China (OIV 2018, 2019).
The wine supply chain is increasingly characterized by industrial processes, innovation, and the global market. Therefore, it contributes to GHG emissions and climate change. As a result, the environmental relevance of the wine industry has been increasing in recent years (Santini et al. 2013), and several CF assessments of viticulture and winemaking products have been performed (Colman and Päster 2009; Delmas and Grant 2008).
Many studies of the wine industry have investigated (a) whether CF is adequate to evaluate the environmental impact of wine production and (b) whether it is possible to identify winery processes that are most responsible for GHG emissions. Such studies have shown that, overall, the CF methodology is useful for identifying environmental hotspots (primarily, the agricultural phase) and improvement opportunities for the wine industry, even though it actually provides information for only one environmental impact category. At the same time, some methodological issues were identified, especially because of the different modelling frameworks adopted and the consequent inclusion or exclusion of, for example, packaging, end of life of bottles, and recovery and recycling processes (Rugani et al. 2013).
In the state-of-the-art, a wide range of CF applications in the wine industry remains unexplored, and recently, there has been an intense debate in this field about methodological and conceptual issues, the adequacy of international standardization tools, and the role of eco-labelling in influencing consumers’ behaviours (Benedetto 2010; Bosco et al. 2011; Capitello et al. 2016; Carballo Penela et al. 2009; Cholette and Venkat 2009; Niccolucci et al. 2008; Pattara et al. 2012; Rugani et al. 2013; Santini et al. 2013; Waye 2008).
According to the European Council, the European landscape convention (Council of Europe 2000) defined landscape as ‘part of the territory, as it is perceived by the populations, whose features come from natural and anthropic factors and their interactions’. Indeed, this definition refers to the close linkage between men, their behaviour, and their land, but it also connects a territory with man’s common life. Therefore, the reference made to landscape here refers not only to the beauty of landscapes as promoted by the media but also to common places that hold the history and culture of a region.
Men and their land are then the origin of a landscape, of which human behaviour is a necessary feature. Our surroundings have their natural features, but only a dialogue between man and nature can increase a landscape’s value. Tempesta (2014) pointed out that the rural landscape is always the result of the layering and overlaying of human interventions in the past. Therefore, a vineyard is one of the elements forming a landscape (so-called ‘iconems’), and it often becomes a revaluing and distinctive feature of it.
A vineyard, therefore, becomes a landscape and, as such, possesses a capacity for transmitting feelings linked to the distinctive characteristics of the territory. In fact, this ability to communicate arises from the strong identity that some areas give to wines. Therefore, wine production characterizes a landscape with a vineyard, and this economic activity creates not only an agri-food product but also a positive externality, namely, the winescape aesthetic. At the same time, the ‘winescape’ characterizes the wine produced in the area, and therefore, the wine can communicate characteristics and feelings. Johnson and Bruwer (2007) stated that the winescape is multi-dimensional as it, in turn, encapsulates the interplay of several features such as vineyards, wineries and other physical structures, wines, natural landscape and setting, people, heritage, and town(s) and buildings and their architecture and artefacts within. They referred to the regional wine brand image as a held perception (or belief) about a bounded wine area space, the elements of which are ‘glued together’ by interrelated winescape elements.
However, the most important dimension of the winescape is the region’s natural beauty/setting (landscape) (Bruwer and Lesschaeve 2012; Bruwer et al. 2014) or winescape aesthetic. Moreover, according to Quintal et al. (2015), the winescape aesthetic and wine value are also significant attributes that influence wine tourist attitudes. In addition, winescape aesthetic is important in wine quality perception. According to Tempesta et al. (2010), the perception of the landscape feature of production is quite a complex phenomenon as it involves numerous components of the human mind, and it has an important emotional value. In fact, international literature (Tempesta et al. 2010; Veale and Quester 2008) has demonstrated that associating wine to an image with a greater visual impact can positively affect the perception of wine quality.
As with other positive externalities, the winescape needs either a public support system (public payments) and/or a premium price that consumers are willing to pay for this attribute. Therefore, it is necessary to analyse consumers’ choices to estimate the market potential of this attribute while also taking into account the fact that the landscape attribute suffers in the absence of a specific certification system.
Millennials’ preferences for wine purchasing
Millennials, which refers to those born roughly between 1980 and 2000, represent an important segment of the wine market in several countries. In fact, the consumption patterns of this new generation are having an increasingly relevant influence on both total and per capita wine consumption. Several data and researches show the trends and influences of millennials on wine consumption in different countries. Millennials appear to drink wine less frequently, consume it more often in social on-premise settings, have slightly higher WTP, and consume a higher share of white wine than other generations. Most of these differences can be linked to an age effect, suggesting that their wine behaviour will change over time (Barber et al. 2008).
Several researches have analysed millennials’ behaviours, and this has contributed to the question of whether generational differences are similar in different markets or whether they are country-specific (Fromm and Garton 2013; Nowak et al. 2006; Nowak and Newton 2008; Olsen et al. 2007; Wolf and Thomas 2007).
Today’s consumers, and millennials in particular, play an important role in the global fight against climate change. In fact, even relatively small changes in their consumption could significantly reduce GHG emissions. The CF label allows consumers to make more informed purchases as also it gives them the option of choosing products with lower GHG emissions.
Although several studies and surveys have shown that millennials have a positive purchasing attitude toward environment-friendly products and that they are willing to pay a premium for low-CF products, little is known about whether they consider the environmental impacts of food products when shopping (Capitello et al. 2016; Pomarici and Vecchio 2014, Teagle et al. 2010).
At the same time, while numerous studies have revealed that the highest-rated factor for millennials when purchasing food is appearance, there is no evidence about the importance of the winescape aesthetic in drawing millennials’ attention and influencing both the quality perception of wine and their purchasing behaviour. Landscape perception is a fairly complex phenomenon, and it involves both numerous components of the human mind as well as an important emotional value (Tempesta et al. 2010).