– Augmented Reality Connect Consumers to Wine Sustainability

As issues about the environment increase to the point of causing spikes in anxiety and depression in a portion of the population that was demonstrated by the Global Climate Strike (where over 125 countries participated before the United Nations met for their Climate Action Summit) a strong focus has been placed on sustainable practices by businesses. The Global Climate Strike was led by 16 year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg with the intention of bringing the world’s attention to the idea that humans have populated the planet to such a degree that one day it will no longer be habitable for people, hence wiping out the human race. But as we live in times where costs are rising and salaries have stayed stagnant, as well as Americans working longer hours than ever before, having the time and energy to seek out which businesses that are truly sustainable becomes almost impossible as a plethora of products use the term “sustainable” simply as a marketing term that is not defined.

Sonoma County Winegrowers

The organization Sonoma County Winegrowers is within striking distance of their goal to become a 100% sustainable wine region. As of 2018, 97% of their vineyards are self-assessed to be sustainable (58,318 acres) and 89% vineyards are certified sustainable by a third party (51,485 acres), which started with their proclamation in 2014 to become 100% sustainable with only 43% sustainable vineyards of which 33% were certified at that time. According to Amy Tesconi, Director of Marketing & Public Relations of Sonoma County Winegrowers, “we may be over 95% (certified sustainable) as we are waiting to receive another check-in on our numbers.” And this impressive goal started with the President of Sonoma County Winegrowers, Karissa Kruse.

Starting in 2014, Karissa, who was relatively new in her position of President, rallied various sectors of the wine business in Sonoma County to shoot for a goal of becoming 100% sustainable. Karissa and her team focused most of their initial energy in trying to get support from their community and they realized that what they were asking was no small task. Ultimately everyone got on board and as Amy Tesconi expressed, “It is really uplifting to see how many have followed suit on that project.” And now they are a small leap away from becoming 100% certified sustainable.

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Augmented Reality (AR)

But the question then became, how do they get the news of Sonoma County Winegrowers’ ambitious goal, which will, for the most part, be achieved soon, out to wine drinkers across the country? Considering that there is an over-saturation of “sustainable” or “environmentally conscious” products that are flooding marketing channels with these terms being overused, sometimes inappropriately, and many times in a judgmental fashion that just turns some consumers off, there seemed to be no good answer; that is where augmented reality (AR) comes into the picture. Last summer Karissa attended a seminar on technology in marketing led by a principal in a company called Tactic Studio. The seminar was about using AR in advertisements such as what Tactic Studio has done for different types of packaging and has already implemented for the 19 Crimes wine labels that uses AR to bring to life past criminals that were sent to Australia between 1788 and 1868. All one has to do is download an app and then point it at the label and a character comes to life and tells the wine consumer what crime they committed and ties it into this Australian wine’s history. Yet it dawned on Karissa that perhaps Sonoma’s message about sustainability could be told in a fun and powerful way using AR as well.

Cost was the biggest concern and Karissa was relieved to find out that most of the expense was upfront to design the programming for the app as well as making sure their message about sustainability came across correctly; it took around four to five months. Once the app is designed it becomes cost effective for Sonoma producers to integrate it into their own labels; currently the producers who are using it are Cline CellarsDutton EstateDutton-GoldfieldFerrari-Carano and Lynmar Estate as well as Francis Ford Coppola Winery releasing their Director’s Cut line with this technology. The Sonoma County Winegrowers app can be downloaded on the Apple app or Google Play store and can be found by searching “Sonoma County Sustainable Wine,” then all one has to do with the newly released aforementioned Sonoma wines is point one’s phone at the label while using the app and the AR experience will begin such as what is showed on the video below.

As the video shows, at first there is the AR experience delivering the message of the importance of sustainability and Sonoma’s grand goal of 100% sustainability that is within arm’s reach. Then the second part is a video with members of the winery, in this case Tracy Dutton, Founder and President of Dutton Estate Winery, talking about what it means to her to be sustainable, “When people are sipping Dutton Estate wines I really want them to enjoy it and know that what they are drinking comes from a true sense of the earth and from our hearts and it’s our passion and it’s our life and we are making it happen, we are making it work.”

The First Producers Taking the Leap with AR

Many do not want to be the first to experiment with using augmented reality but it is interesting to hear the reasons for those who did take the leap. As mentioned above, Francis Ford Coppola Winery Director’s Cut (2017 of Cinema, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon) will be one of the first and Corey Beck, The Family Coppola CEO and Winemaking Chief, noted, “Our commitment to sustainability and innovation continues, and it’s important to help lead the way towards more awareness on the importance of sustainable winemaking and environmental stewardship. Our interactive wine labels are a creative way for people to learn more.” And Valerie Wathen, Manager for Dutton-Goldfield Winery, spoke about the increase of consumers wanting to use their buying power to support their values, “just like with the foods they buy, people want to know that the wines that they’re enjoying are made in a responsible manner, from businesses that are doing their part for the future of our planet.”

Anisya Fritz, Proprietor of Lynmar Estates, talked about the importance of her community standing out with this technology, “In a competitive market, telling the story of the wine and making it feel personal is so important. It also served as a way to differentiate our county, where there is such a community commitment to sustainability.” And for those who have traveled to Sonoma County it is evident how much protecting Mother Nature has been a part of Sonoma’s way of life with a multitude of vineyards tucked away, surrounded by forests and their 52 protected regional and state parks. In the past, their commitment to preserving nature reserves was seen as a detriment for tourism as it is not as easy to get around or find wineries compared to wine regions that have cleared out much of their nature to make one direct main roadway that leads to most wineries. But a cry from the younger generation seeking more authentic places that value the protection of their land, sky and water is being heard and the Sonoma County Winegrowers realized that this was their opportunity to become completely certified sustainable and get the word out about their way of life.

Wine and Technology Bringing Stories Alive

As much as it is vital for many to reduce personal environmental impact as well as to refuse to support companies that are the worst perpetrators of them all, it is just as important to support those who are an ideal example of living in harmony with the earth; and to have a whole community make such a commitment is even more powerful. Tracy Dutton commented further that went beyond what she said in the above video, “sustainability is what my family has been practicing for generations, and for Sonoma County to stand behind the sustainability vision, which is a tradition for multi-generation farmers, is a way for traditions and technology to work hand in hand, and literally with the use of our mobile devices which are always in our hands and enable us to access the world and it’s information in an instant.”

The main reason why Sonoma has been able to get so close to their 100% certified sustainable goal is because the foundation of their commitment to nature as a community had already been there for generations and now it is just a matter of certifying it and promoting it; in a way it seems that technology is part of the key in helping to battle a problem that was caused by technology. As many look to their phones to help them connect to the world that is beyond them, it becomes an opportunity to use it for good… showing ways a consumer can support those issues that keep them up at night, or inspiring those to care about the environment at all, in a fun way that can be shared with others; sharing stories of real people and a real community making significant change that centers around a libation that one can drink with others with varying beliefs as there is no judgment but only good wine.

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I write about wine as well as the passion-fueled journeys of the people who make it and the fascinating cultures and places where wine is made. I am the founder and sole…