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My View: Ethical Trends

Published:  18 January, 2007

Trends these days in the food industry are the greener and more ethical the better.

A recent study by market research firm, Mintel showed that one in five now check the provenance of a product before buying it, and 41% want more information on food miles.

It seems that if you can claim that your product is ethically and sustainably sourced, carbon neutral (or near as possible) and recyclable then you are on to a winner. The flower industry is beginning to take note and surely it's only a matter of time before the wine world catches up.

It seems to me that Europe is in the best position to substantiate and build on these messages although research from Professor Gareth Edward Jones shows that wines that have been shipped a long distance often clock up fewer carbon emissions that wines that have travelled a shorter distance by road.

But that is a complicated message to communicate and a complex one for the average consumer to understand. For example, how many ethical consumers support Fairtrade failing to understand all the issues - that on one level it is simply another produce subsidy system which, might, on occasion, simply shift poverty from one part of the world to another?

So as the food miles' debate rages on, I wonder if consumers will turn away from wines from across the other side of the world? What is Chile, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand doing to prepare for a potential consumer backlash?

In a couple of years from now, will it be unthinkable for the right on Islington crowd to be serving up an Australian Chardonnay when Burgundy will do just as well? You never know, European wines might start increasing their market share again with consumers demanding Tempranillo from Rioja not Argentina and Riesling from Germany not Australia.

Nicky Forrest is Managing Director at Phipps PR and responsible wine clients such as Wines of Germany and Wines from Rioja.