Sustainable Growth in Wine


Consumers today are more conscious than ever about where their favorite products come from, and how they are made. Researchers at Unilever recently discovered that 78% of American consumers feel better about buying products produced with sustainable farming practices. Understanding what sustainable winemaking is, and why it’s important to both consumers and the industry as a whole, will help you guide your customers to a sustainable wine they will love to love.

Our partners at Fetzer have been a driving force in sustainable agriculture for decades, and we recently talked to their Director of Regenerative Development, Josh Prigge, to find out more about sustainability and how it can translate into sales.

What is sustainable farming?

Josh Prigge: We like to think of sustainable farming as a holistic approach to agriculture that not only looks to reduce resource use and negative impacts on the environment but also aims to enhance communities and lives.

What has been the feedback from consumers?

Studies show that consumers are increasingly drawn to products bearing sustainable, organic and biodynamic credentials, and we see these trends bearing out in the success of our wines. Demand for organic products has grown annually by double digits since the 1990s, with organic sales increasing from $3.6 billion in 1997 to more than $39 billion by 2014 [Source: Organic Trade Association 2015 Annual Report]. What’s more, we know that 40% of consumers view sustainable and organic credentials as important when considering wine, and 50% of those consumers are millennials [Source: Nielsen Bev Al Survey, Fielding period 8/14-8/18/15].

What makes a sustainable wine more appealing?

Sustainability’s holistic approach to business appeals to today’s consumer, who is more interested than ever in concepts like ethical sourcing, fair trade and responsible farming. At Fetzer Vineyards, we approach our whole business with an eye to sustainability, so in addition to farming responsibly and taking care of our employees, supply chain partners and community, we’re a certified Zero Waste business, CarbonNeutral® and operate entirely on renewable energy. Sustainable businesses offer something beyond just product quality in the bottle – we also offer a 360-degree perspective on what makes a transparent and responsible enterprise. We walk the walk.

Why did Fetzer Vineyards begin the move toward sustainability back in the 1980s?

While a sustainable ethos has been a part of the Fetzer Vineyards mindset from the beginning, things really got underway in the vineyards once we observed the incredible quality of fruits and vegetables grown in our organic garden in the 1980s. We decided to apply similar regenerative practices in our Mendocino County vineyards, and the quality of the farming absolutely showed up in the glass. Thirty years later, we know these kinds of practices are better for the wine, better for the farmer and better for the land, and reward us with beautiful vintages year in and year out.

Why is Fetzer Vineyards committed to producing sustainable wines?

We believe that it is our responsibility to look out for people and communities, as well as profits. It’s why we became a certified B Corporation in 2015. B Corp certification standards, developed by the non-profit B Lab, are widely recognized as the highest standards for social and environmental responsibility in business. We are the world’s largest B Corp winery.

In terms of big picture, the wine industry is particularly vulnerable to climate change and natural resource degradation. The quality of our products and the longevity of our industry depend on our evolving towards earth-friendly farming practices like sustainable, organic and biodynamic – and we are proud to be leaders in this movement.

What does the future look like for sustainability?

Looking ahead, we recently made the conscious decision to advance beyond sustainability to what we call a Commitment to Regenerate. That means we have committed to redefining success in business to include operating in ways that restore, revitalize and regenerate ecosystems and communities. We believe a regenerative approach is the way forward for sustainable winegrowing.

Talk to your Breakthru Sales Consultant to find out more about our portfolio of sustainably-produced products.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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