A key hurdle that box wine must overcome is that it is cheap plonk – many consumers will assume this until proven otherwise. Boxed wine makers who think, “Wait until they taste it – THAT will convince them!” are, unfortunately, hoping for too much. We’ve written about experiments which have shown that people subconsciously prefer wine that is more expensive, or that comes from a better region (see Neuromarketing for Why Expensive Wine Tastes Better and Wine: The Spillover Effect. In each case, wine that was actually identical produced different reactions in the wine drinker’s brain and/or unconscious behavior. It’s not a big stretch to assume that boxed wine, long a beverage of choice for hard-up college students and thrifty party-givers, would carry the same mental stigma as cheap bottled wine or wine from a region of uncertain quality.
The New York Times has picked up on this theme with My Cortex Made Me Buy It by M. P. Dunleavey. In that article, the author wrestles with the question of how much the perception of the wine was influenced by the fact that it was poured from a box:
When [the subjects] sampled the wines with lower prices, however, the subjects not only liked them less, their brains registered less pleasure from the experience. It seems that what these subjects really liked was the price tag, not the product.
APPARENTLY my brain had a similar reaction at the thought of drinking Blue Nun from a box, which costs about $20 for a container that packs the equivalent of four 750-milliliter bottles of wine. But why? Does the brain fire up at the sight of a higher price tag in any context?
A good question indeed, and one that box wine producers will have to address as they strive for greater acceptance of their products.