Resveratrol-Enriched Red Wines: What’s it worth to you?

We’ve all seen the headlines:  “Red wine is good for your health!”  When consumed in moderate amounts, red wine has been shown to have many positive health effects, from improved cardiovascular health, to decreased cases of diabetes, to potentially improved cognitive function, and perhaps even reductions in symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.  There appear to be many components of red wine that are involved in these and other positive health impacts, though one in particular, resveratrol, has been studied more extensively.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-C3_VeOxjNfI/TV0B1Ms-n0I/
AAAAAAAAPUY/wh8xxVWPwsw/s1600/resveratrol.gif

Resveratrol is a phenolic compound in the stilbenes group, which also goes by the name 3,5,4’-trihydroxystilbene (rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?).  It has been often linked to the health benefits often associated with red wines, and is not found in as much abundance in white wines.

Would you be willing to spend more money on a red wine enriched with resveratrol?

The study being discussed in this post today aimed to answer that very question.  Since it’s known that resveratrol has many positive health benefits, would you be willing to spend money on a wine that has been enriched in the compound to increase those health benefits?  Deemed a “functional food”, resveratrol-enriched red wine could result in high consumer demand.  It has already been shown that there is increased demand for other “functional foods”, with the food industry continuing to expand the types of foods included into this “functional foods” category.

Wine as a functional food

Functional foods are officially defined as those that can “satisfactorily demonstrate to affect beneficially one or more target functions in the body, beyond adequate nutritional effects, in a way that is relevant to either improved stage of health and well-being and/or reduction in risk of disease”.  In other words, functional foods can also be described as those “products promoted using health claims”.

http://www.functionalfoodinfo.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/functional-foods.jpg

In the European Union (and similarly in the United States), in order for a product to carry such a health claim, there must be sufficient scientific evidence of the alleged beneficial effect in order to legally label it as a functional food with specific health benefits.  These claims must be approved by the appropriate authority in each country (i.e.; in the E.U., it’s the European Food Safety Authority; and in the U.S., it’s the Food and Drug Administration) and will be done so on a case-by-case basis.

Functional foods are one of the fastest growing food markets, with an estimated annual growth rate (in 2008) of 10%, which compared to a food industry average of 2-3% growth rate, is a significantly growing market.  In Spain, for example, over 40% of all households consume items within this functional food category, with other studies raising this number to almost 75%.

With the vast amount of scientific evidence showing that resveratrol in red wine has many positive health benefits, the Andalusian Agricultural Research Institute started (in 2008) to develop the technology to produce resveratrol-enriched red wines.  More recently, in 2011, this group has been successful in developing such a wine, and you can read about it briefly in a post by El Cata Vinos by clicking here.  Research has shown that the concentration of resveratrol can be doubled in red wine, without it affecting any of its’ flavor, aroma, mouthfeel, or other characteristics such as color, and acidity.

Studies have shown that there is a large market for these “functional foods”, with a general positive association and more willingness to buy if a particular food item was enriched in something that would give improved health benefits (with the exception of omega-3-enriched eggs).  For example, some studies have shown that customers would be willing to spend a premium of 92.5% over the retail price for tomato sauce fortified with vitamins, which clearly indicate a desire and a market for these types of “functional foods”.

To date, no study has looked at evaluating wine as a potential functional food, and whether consumers would be willing to pay more for wine enriched in the beneficial compound, resveratrol.  Studies have shown that price, origin, and quality certifications are important in the wine-buying process, but since there is not yet a resveratrol-enriched red wine, no studies have examined this aspect as a factor in deciding which bottle of wine to purchase.

Methods

There were many complicated mathematical models that went into calculating the results of the study, which I’ll skip past for now (but if you want to know more of these details, just ask) and focus on the main methods for determining customer preferences.

Customers who were visiting stores (hypermarkets, supermarkets, and traditional wine shops) were selected at random, with every 5th person who purchased wine being given a more extensive interview.  A total of 300 wine consumers from Granada (in Andalusia, Spain) were interviewed for this study.

Questionnaires

The customers selected at random were given questionnaires to complete, in order to determine their wine preference and willingness-to-pay for particular wines.  The questionnaire was structured such that the first portion was devoted to questions related to wine consumption and things that motivate wine purchases, and the second section was devoted more to knowledge (including nutritional knowledge) and consumption of functional foods.  Basically, the questionnaires aimed to focus on the relationship between wine consumption and health before giving consumers the “option” of purchasing a “functional food” wine versus a “non-functional food” wine.

After the questionnaires were delivered, consumers were presented with a detailed description of the resveratrol-enriched wine, while trying to be as “neutral” as possible.  The exact wording of the description given to the study participants was as follows:

            “Resveratrol is a compound found naturally in grapes.  Under normal circumstances it is found in very low concentrations or may even not be found in wine, and its concentration is higher in red wines.  Several scientific studies (more than 200 in the past two years) have detected a positive relationship between resveratrol and the reduction in the risk of certain illnesses such as arteriosclerosis, cancer, brain ischaemias, and inflammatory diseases in general.  Nowadays it is possible to increase the resveratrol content of grapes (and therefore in products derived from them, such as wine) using postharvest physical treatments.  Thus, wine produced from grapes that have undergone this treatment can contain up to five times as much resveratrol as wine produced from regular grapes.  It has been shown that the increase in resveratrol content does not affect the wine’s organoleptic characteristics (taste, colour, aroma, etc).”

After this information was presented, consumers given a choice of choosing bottles enriched or not enriched with resveratrol, and were given the options of whether they would buy one of them, or not buy any of them.

http://resveratrolbenefit.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/resveratrol-picture.jpg

Results

Wine and functional foods consumption patterns and knowledge

  •       The average household monthly wine consumption for the study group was 3.8 bottles
  •       The maximum price consumers were willing to pay for red wine (non-enriched) was 10.1 Euros (or $14.39 USD).
  •       When asked whether or not consumers thought of red wine as a healthy product, 99.7% of consumers said yes it was!
  •        91.3% of consumers knew what a functional food was, and 91.7% of the sample consumed them (with the most common product being dairy).

Consumer health and nutrition related attitudes and behavior

  •       The following four categories were most important in determining how consumers purchased bottles of wine:

o   1st:  label information: nutritional information, confidence in food quality controls, belief in potential of food technology, and likelihood to try new products.

o   2nd: wine choice patterns: influence of recommendations, presentation, previous knowledge when making wine choices.

o   3rd: health and diet concerns: knowledge regarding the relationship between food and health and subsequent diet selection.

o   4th: activity level of the consumer and consumption of vitamin supplements.

  •       Other random sample information:

o   50% of the study subjects smoke.

o   66.6% drink alcohol several times per week.

o   14.7% follow a diet.

o   46% had cases of cancer in their families.

o   43.7% had cases of coronary diseases in their families.

Choice results:  “Normal” versus Resveratrol-enriched red wine

  •       Consumers choose more frequently functional wines associated with a higher purchase intention for red wines enriched in resveratrol (in other words, consumers would be more likely to buy resveratrol-enriched red wines).
  •       Consumers are willing to pay 5.89 Euros (or $8.39 USD) MORE for resveratrol-enriched red wine than a red wine without this enrichment.

What does this all mean?

 One must first keep in mind that the study group was a relatively small sample (300 people) all from one particular region of the world (Andalusia, Spain), and since that no individual was actually going to be purchasing any of the wines (since they do not yet exist), they may or may not be accurately assigning willingness-to-pay amounts for any particular type of wine, be in enriched or not enriched in resveratrol. 

The results of this study may or may not be limited to just the consumer preferences and behaviors of wine consumers from Andalusia, Spain, so more large scale (and global) studies should be done to confirm or deny whether or not this seemingly increased willingness-to-pay is universal or unique to this small region of the world.

It seems to me that if consumers are aware of the positive health benefits and not presented with any negative aspects of alcohol consumption, then it would make sense that people would be willing to spend more.  Some may not want to purchase resveratrol-enriched wines because they seem less “natural” or less “organic”, however, I think society as a whole would be interested in a wine such as these, and that there would be a strong market for it.

What about you all?  Would you buy a wine enriched in resveratrol if you knew it would not change the flavor/aroma/etc?  Would you be willing to pay a little more for the bottle than a typical bottle of red? 

Since a hospital visit for cardiovascular disease or other illnesses are extremely costly, how much would you be willing to spend on a bottle of wine to possibility help reduce the likelihood of such a hospital visit?

I’d love to hear what you all think about this!  Please feel free to comment below!

Full citation for the article discussed today:

Barreiro-Hurle, J., Colombo, S., and Cantos-Villar, E. 2008. Is there a market for functional wines? Consumer preferences and willingness to pay for resveratrol-enriched red wine. Food Quality and Preference 19: 360-371.
I am not a health professional, nor do I pretend to be. Please consult your doctor before altering your alcohol consumption habits. Do not consume alcohol if you are under the age of 21. Do not drink and drive. Enjoy responsibly!

4 comments for “Resveratrol-Enriched Red Wines: What’s it worth to you?

  1. July 11, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    This is a very helpful post. Thanks for posting this.

  2. July 11, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    Thank you for reading! I'm happy you enjoyed the post! I'm wondering how long it will be before a product like resveratrol-enriched wine becomes available to the public. I bet there would be a strong market for it!

  3. July 30, 2011 at 4:57 am

    I am an owner of a winery and believe it or not I stumbled upon your article as I have a desire to produce this product, but wondered if I was late to the market. So, if you could help me with some guidance I may be one of the first to attempt this project.

  4. July 30, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Thanks for reading, Dennis!

    As far as I am aware, it's not too late, though, I'd be willing to bet people are working on it as we speak. I'm sure there would need to be some USDA involvement, but I have yet to research what exactly would need to be done. I'll shoot you an email so that we may keep in touch.

    Thanks again for the comment!

Comments are closed.