• Camilla Gould

Introducing the Ethical Wine Consumer

Updated: Jul 3

A 2017 study by Unilever revealed that a third of consumers prefer to use sustainable brands, with an estimated “€966 billion opportunity exists for brands that make their sustainability credentials clear”. This trend appears to be particularly evident in developing markets, with 88% and 85% of shoppers in India and Brazil, respectively, indicating a preference in buying products that are clearly marked as sustainably produced.

So why the change in consumers’ social conscience? Due to media attention, emerging social norms and a push-back against traditional consumerism, everyday people now feel a greater sense of responsibility when it comes to exercising their shopping activity. One example of this can be seen with the ‘The Blue Planet Effect’, named after the outcry following David Attenborough’s wildlife documentary which shone a light on the plight faced by ocean wildlife as a direct result of ocean plastic, seemed to be the catalyst for a collective change in mindsets. Many consumers were shocked to see how badly their habits had affected the environment, and the spotlight fell heavily on large (and small) businesses to change tack and do more to prevent the continuing pollution of our planet.

Off of the back of this change in mood, the UK has seen the government step in to do their bit to help the environment, with the introduction of the successful 5p plastic bag charge last year, and more recently the announcement that plastic straws would soon be banned from bars and restaurants. The public reaction confirmed the sense that people’s priorities were shifting towards are more virtuous outlook – restaurants stocked their bars full of paper straws faster than one can get soggy – and barely a whisper of protest was uttered.

With all of this in mind, it won’t come as a surprise that the rise of conscious consumerism isn’t something that the wine industry can afford to ignore. This trend is unlikely to change anytime soon, with Generation Z set to become the most ethical generation to date and producers and importers need to examine how they can adapt their business models to sit more in line with what their consumers are buying or risk loosing their custom all together.

Many wine producers have started making waves with their efforts to champion either social, environmental or ethical values throughout their businesses. Below, we take a look at some of these brands so that you can examine what is possible foe your own business model.

Sustainable Winemaking

Sustainable winemaking is actually nothing too new within the industry, with a myriad of Organic, Sustainable and Biodynamic wines available, however it does mean that brands who have promoted this method of making wines will now benefit from shouting about their efforts. Frey Vineyards are America’s first organic winery, producing wine without added sulfites. This third generation family owned winery use both organic and Biodynamic methods to encourage care for the soil and the wildlife surrounding it.

Packaging Solutions

The introduction of wine cans and wine boxes has ruffled a few feathers amongst tradition wine enthusiasts, to say the least, but this innovative response to a call for more responsible packaging is proving to be more than just a fad. A recent report from Nielson revealed that the canned wine industry grew 43% in the US between June 2017 and June 2018, making it a $45Million business. Whilst this may still account for a fraction of the larger wine industry, it presents a large piece of pie from which innovative winemakers can grab a slice if acting fast enough. But, what does all this have to do with saving the planet? Cans and cardboard are far easier to recycle than bottles, as well as being substantially lighter than glass, which advocates say helps to reduce carbon emissions during transportation (and keeping costs down)

Underwood Wines’ decision to launch a range of canned wine marries closely with their philosophy of fluff-free wines, arguing that it’s what’s inside the can that counts, keeping any pretension to a minimum and making wines more accessible.

For the Vegans

Many wine lovers may never have considered the idea that the wines they drink contain animal products, however in traditional winemaking methods, it is not uncommon for animal products such as isinglass (fish bladders) or gelatin to be used as filters to remove organic (but unwanted) particles from the winemaking process. This had previously not been an issue for most wine consumers, however with the rise of animal welfare concerns, health consciousness and environmental worries, a staggering 7% of the UK population alone has gone plant based.

These some 3.5 million people needn’t panic however, as there is a plethora of wineries using alternative methods such as using mineral and plant-based fining agents, to ensure that their wines are suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Importers and Supermarkets have moved fast off of the back of this growing dietary choice, with Marks & Spencer to Co-op leading the charge in this area.

Vegans and carnivores alike tempted taste these animal friendly tipples will be pleasantly surprised with a glass of Dandelion Vineyards’ Lionheart of the Barossa Shiraz, with grapes grown on ancient vines, hand crushed and finished in French oak barrels, resulting in serious spicy pepper notes.

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