UBC grad student examines potential of sustainability from vineyard to market


From Bogota, Colombia, to Mexico City, to the wineries of the Okanagan, PhD student Camilo Peña has been on a round-the-world research journey aimed at better understanding and documenting the relationship between marketing, consumer motivation, and social and environmental sustainability in agriculture.

His ambitions led him to Quails’ Gate winery in West Kelowna, where he has immersed himself in the day-to-day activities of the winery in order gather information about the extent and impact of sustainable viticulture practices in the Okanagan Valley. Peña is investigating water use management, chemical and pesticide reduction, soil and fertilizer management, waste management, energy efficiency, and the promotion of bio-diversity. His on-the-ground research in the blazing Okanagan sun includes planting, nurturing and bringing the grape vines to fruition.

The 2011 sustainability report on the British Columbia Sustainable Winegrowing Program shows there were only seven wineries out of more than 200 and five vineyards out of more than 850 in the Okanagan that participated in the first year of the program, says Peña, an Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies PhD student at UBC’s Okanagan campus.

“My research is about understanding what local wineries are doing in terms of sustainability, what products they are using, why, and what impact sustainable practices have in motivating consumers to purchase sustainably grown products, such as organic wine,” says Peña.

Peña is passionate about consumer behavior.

“We want to contribute to the development of consumer research knowledge in the area of sustainability and consumer perceptions, which hasn’t been studied much,” he says. “With this information we may be able to categorize the motives for people in purchasing a sustainable wine or socially responsible wine.”

Long term, Peña’s research may help determine if there is potential for developing a sustainable wine industry in the Okanagan, similar to fair trade coffee or chocolate.

“It may also serve as a global model for socially responsible wine production. I would be thrilled if my work could help ensure the viability of the Okanagan wine industry over time, benefiting current and future generations in the valley.”

Peña plans to continue his work throughout the fall at Quail’s Gate, focusing on processing, production and marketing. Over the next year he intends to expand his research to other Okanagan wineries as well.

Peña is conducting research under the guidance of Annamma Joy, professor of marketing in the Faculty of Management, whose expertise include brand management, consumer behavior, wine consumption and wine marketing. Joy received a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Development grant to study taste culture development in the wine industry and the Provost’s grant for wine marketing research in the Okanagan valley.

Peña’s research is also supported by Mitacs, a national, not-for-profit training and research organization. Mitacs provides services to both industry and university faculty with a focus on developing research-based linkages.

View the UBCO-TV videos about Prof. Annamma Joy’s research with the Okanagan wine industry: