URBAN CONSUMERS’ PERSPECTIVES ON MARKET OPPORTUNITIES FOR MID-ATLANTIC SPECIALTY CROPS

Open Access
Author:
Chamberlain, Amy J
Graduate Program:
Horticulture
Degree:
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
April 04, 2011
Committee Members:
  • Kathleen Marie Kelley, Thesis Advisor
  • Jeffrey Hyde, Thesis Advisor
Keywords:
  • marketing
  • produce
  • survey
  • knowledge
Abstract:
Consumer attitudes and behaviors pertaining to fresh produce and value-added processed products impact firms in the fruit and vegetable industries as they try to understand and meet demand. Recent market data show increased consumer demand for locally grown and/or certified organic produce and value-added processed products, as well as the desire for knowing where their food is sourced. This research was conducted to understand how important these trends are in the mid-Atlantic region. The methodology for this research included administering four Internet surveys to primary food shoppers, age 21 and older, residing in five metropolitan areas of the mid-Atlantic region (Richmond, VA; Baltimore, MD; Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia, PA; and New York City, NY) with the goal of examining their knowledge of, and attitudes and behavior towards fresh and value-added specialty crop products. These topics were investigated by examining purchasing behavior, including outlet of choice (e.g. farmers’ market), and preferences for locally grown and certified organic produce. Additionally, consumers were tested on their knowledge and purchasing behavior of mid-Atlantic grown produce and state promotional programs. Results indicate a strong preference for locally grown produce and value-added processed products, with an average of 71% (across two surveys) of research participants reporting that they purchase locally grown produce. Consumers also exhibited preferences for certified organic produce, preferring both locally grown and certified organic produce over one or neither of these options. Additionally, while consumers indicated purchasing a variety of produce that can be grown within the mid-Atlantic region, the majority could not correctly identify what types of fruits and vegetables can be grown in this region and when these items are harvested. Lastly, consumers as a whole exhibited low awareness of state promotional programs. However, the few that did indicate they were aware of these programs and purchased products branded with these programs showed preferences for these items over products not branded by state promotional programs. Results presented here indicate many opportunities for mid-Atlantic produce industry stakeholders. Knowing consumer demand and preferences for locally grown and certified organic produce can assist stakeholders with meeting this demand. Results can also help stakeholders with deciding what consumer segments to target and developing marketing materials that best appeal to consumers. As the results also indicate a general lack of awareness for mid-Atlantic produced specialty crops and value-added processed products, stakeholders may choose to incorporate educational efforts using the results as a guideline. Informing consumers interested in specialty crops and products about when and what is available to purchase within this region may encourage them to purchase.