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Does environment matter? Assessments of wine in traditional booths compared to an immersive and actual wine bar

Hannum, Mackenzie, Forzley, Sheri, Popper, Richard, Simons, Christopher T.
Food quality and preference 2019 v.76 pp. 100-108
prices, red wines, sensory evaluation, willingness to pay
Immersive environments may restore relevant context during consumer sensory testing and hence, could yield better discrimination and reliability in acceptance tests compared to traditional methods. To date, no study has compared hedonic data from these settings to those obtained in an actual consumption environment. Presently, sixty-two red-wine consumers evaluated the same 4 wines in 3 environments—a traditional sensory booth, an immersive wine bar, and an actual wine bar. For each wine, subjects evaluated overall liking, future consumption habits, and price estimation. Interestingly, wine liking did not differ across the three environments (p = 0.076) nor was there a significant wine by environment interaction (p = 0.955). However, at the individual level, wine liking was less stable. For each subject, the magnitude of difference in liking scores for each wine was calculated between two environments. On average, the greatest difference in liking scores occurred between the traditional booths and the actual wine bar (1.7 ± 0.1) and was significantly greater than the difference in liking scores between the booths and immersive wine bar (1.4 ± 0.1, p = 0.008); the liking difference between the immersive and actual wine bar (1.6 ± 0.1) was intermediate. Consumption behavior was also differentially impacted by environment. Subjects were more willing to order the wines at a wine bar when evaluating in the actual environment compared to the traditional booths (p = 0.035). However, environment did not influence the subject’s willingness to purchase the wine to drink at home (p = 0.064). Generally, consumers were able to accurately differentiate price amongst the wines (p < 0.001) but estimated the wines at a higher price point in the actual environment compared to the traditional (p = 0.049). Overall, results suggest wine liking scores across environments were stable within the population, whereas greater variability was observed in individuals when comparing liking scores between traditional booths and the actual environment. Due to the marginal effect of the environment additional research is needed to evaluate the use of immersive technologies and better understand under which conditions context is important.