Just looking down the aisle at the wine shop, you all know that there are a lot of different wines to choose from. Most of the time one does not know much about the quality and thus have to make their purchase decisions based on other factors such as brand name, price, labeling, and advertisements. One study found that consumers focus on two main attributes when making their purchasing decisions: 1) the shape/size/color of the bottle, and 2) the type of closure and label. To date, most of the studies have focused on the impact of labeling on purchase intention, and very few have examined the effect of bottle shape/size.
With other types of products, studies have shown that consumers associate heavier products with better quality. Some may think that as a result of this finding, if it applies to wine, could fool consumers into thinking the wine is a higher price/quality, when perhaps maybe it is not. Wine bottles come in a wide variety of sizes, with weights varying from 300g to 900g (empty), with an average of 500g. One of the few studies examining bottle weight and effects on consumers found that consumers did associate heavier bottles with higher quality wine.
One more psychological study examined consumer preferences with vodka and found similar results. By taking a heavy glass bottle and a lighter glass bottle and filling them with the exact same amount of vodka, those participants in the study that noticed the weight difference preferred the heavier bottle, since it was perceived as being more expensive/better quality. The main problem with this study was that there was no statistical analysis performed, so one can’t be sure if these results were “real”.
So, does the weight of the bottle really give an indication of the price and quality of the wine inside? The cost of the bottle itself is something to consider: lightweight bottles are weaker (generally) and more likely to break during transportation, so often times stronger bottles would be preferred. Consumers often believe that for higher quality wines, the increased cost of glass in a stronger bottles is small when compared to the risk of breakage.
There were five overall goals for the study presented today: 1) to determine if there is a correlation between bottle weight and price; 2) to determine if there are correlations between bottle weight and vintage, color, and country of origin; 3) to determine the variation in the marketplace in regards to weight; 4) to determine if there are any correlations between bottle weight and whether the wine is “old world” style or “new world” style; and 5) to determine if consumers make any associations between bottle weight and price or quality.
The study was performed in a wine shop in Oxford, England. Over 500 bottles were weighed with a kitchen scale with the main characteristics of the wine inside noted.
To determine consumers’ opinions on bottle weight and price/quality, online questionnaires were sent out to wine experts, people in educational agronomy and food technology departments, as well as the general public (all in Spain). In the email sent out, it was noted that the purpose of the questionnaire was to collect information about general wine consumption, preference, and wine knowledge. Participants were asked to determine their level of expertise with wine, their frequency of wine consumption, and their preferred variety of wine. Data for any participant consuming less than one glass of wine per week was not included in the analysis.
- In general, participants thought that the weight of the bottle had more to do with price than the quality of the wine contained within.
o Differences were found between the three consumer groups (naïve, amateur, expert):
§ Specifically with naïve consumers (and less so with amateurs and experts), there was a trend of higher quality wines being associated with heavier bottles.
- The weight of the bottles were positively correlated with the price of the wines, and inversely correlated with the vintage.
o Heavier bottle = greater price.
o Heavier bottle = older wine.
- Alcohol content was positively correlated with the weight of the bottle.
o Heavier bottle = higher alcohol.
§ Red wines had higher alcohol content than white wines.
· Therefore, the color of the wine was significantly correlated with the weight of the bottle, though this was not found in every country of origin.
- There were no significant differences between New World and Old World wines in regards to wine bottle weight.
- Results by country:
o Australia: The younger the wine, the lighter the bottle.
o France: The heavier the bottle, the higher the price, the higher the alcohol, and the older the vintage.
o Italy: The heavier the bottle, the higher the price, the higher the alcohol, and the older the vintage. (Same as France!)
o South Africa: The heavier the bottle, the higher the price and the older the vintage.
o Spain: The heavier the bottle, the higher the price, the higher the alcohol. There was no correlation with vintage.
In general, this very short study found that the weight of the wine bottles was strongly correlated with the price of the bottle, which varied slightly from country to country and by type of wine. The authors did not find any direct correlations between the price of a bottle of wine and its’ perceived quality.
One major problem with this study was that, according to the authors, the methods used did not explicitly test whether consumers actually rely on the weight of the bottle to determine price and quality. I was slightly miffed by the fact, as I would assume that a study setting out to test a particular hypothesis would actually design the experiment properly instead of going about it in a roundabout way. However, I suppose this study could have been more of an initial observation, the results of which could help the authors determine if more detailed analysis needs to be performed, or if they are way out in left field with their ideas. By performing the similar questionnaires first, the authors have some idea of potentially significant outcomes, the next study of which could be designed to more explicitly test these theories.
For example, in order to explicitly test whether consumers actually rely on the weight of the wine bottle in order to estimate price and quality of the wine within, study participants would need to actually taste and rate the same wine when served from bottles having different weights. The authors bring up one potential issue with this design in that the shape of the bottle may also play a role in determining price and quality. Specifically, different bottle shapes have different centers of gravity, which may give the illusion that one bottle is heavier than another, even if they are the same weight. This variable would most certainly need to be taken into account with future research.
In a nutshell, there appears to be some correlation between bottle weight and price based on simple online questionnaires, however, to really determine if consumers associate heavier bottles with higher price and potentially higher quality, taste experiments using the same wine in different size/shape bottles must be performed.
What do you all this of this study? Please feel free to comment below (no html tags).
Source: Piqueras-Fiszman, B., and Spence, C. 2012. The weight of the bottle as a possible extrinsic cue with which to estimate the price (and quality) of the wine? Observed correlations. Food Quality and Preference 25: 41-45.
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!