Date of this Version
This report summarizes the initial findings of a survey of 500 households in the states of Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin. The primary grocery shopper in the household was surveyed for their attitudes and opinions on locally grown and produced food, organic and all-natural food and meat purchasing behaviors.
To access a respondent’s purchasing behavior, each respondent was asked to rank the importance of twelve attributes in determining the product or brand they purchase. The attributes most important to consumers in the region* include taste, quality, nutrition/healthfulness, and price. Seven in ten respondents said that it was very or extremely important that their purchase supported a local family farm and was locally grown or produced. The respondents also showed a great deal of interest in purchasing locally grown or produced products from several different sources including the grocery store, farmer’s market, local farmer (direct), and restaurant and/or cafeteria.
Nearly all (99%) of the respondents have purchased locally grown or produced food at one time or another. Over half of the households have purchased locally grown or produced beef, pork, chicken, and cheese, and that proportion could increase significantly if locally grown or produced products were more widely available. However, when determining the price that respondents were willing to pay locally grown or produced products, 48% would prefer to pay an amount equal to the “typical retail price” for the item. Consequently, a consumer needs to be convinced that a price premium for locally grown or produced products is justified because of the attributes (analyzed in this report) that are most important to consumers. Among those who have purchased locally grown or produced food, 81% have purchased these items from a farmer’s market, while approximately 75% have purchased from a grocery store and/or direct from a local farmer. The top three reasons for purchasing locally grown or produced products were freshness, better taste, and the opportunity to support local farmers.
The terms organic and all-natural were not defined for the respondents. Therefore, the results are based upon the consumer’s perception of what constitutes organic and/or all-natural food. Seventy-one percent of the households said that organic and/or all-natural products were available in their local area. The organic and all-natural market is substantial with 35% of the households in the region reporting they have purchased organic foods, 36% saying they have purchased all-natural foods, and 27% indicating they have purchased both. However, when determining the price respondents were willing to pay for these items, about half preferred to pay a price equal to the typical retail price for a “conventional” item. Among households who have purchased organic and all-natural foods, 34% to 48% have purchased locally grown organic or all-natural beef, pork, chicken, and cheese, and these percentages could increase significantly if there was more product availability.
Among those who have not purchased organic or all-natural foods, at least 58% would purchase locally grown organic and/or all-natural products if available. Among this group of respondents, the top reasons for not purchasing were that they had no interest or need; the products were too expensive; products were not available; and that they needed more information (knowledge) about the products. Those who have not purchased organic and all-natural products stated they would be influenced to purchase locally grown organic and/or all-natural foods if the product’s price was more reasonable, competitive, or comparable to mainstream food products and if the products were more widely available.
More than 70% of those who have purchased organic and all-natural food purchased their products from a farmer’s market and/or a conventional grocery store, while 46% have purchased the products from an organic or natural foods store. The top ranked reasons why these consumers purchase organic and all-natural foods are that the foods have no chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, or antibiotics; are healthy and/or nutritious; and simply because they taste better.
Over half of all respondents (53%) consume meat six to seven days a week with 42% eating meat every day. The respondents were asked to rank the importance of seventeen attributes in selecting the meat that they purchase. Food safety was the top ranked attribute followed by quality, USDA inspection, tenderness, juiciness, and farm fresh taste. Price was ranked sixth among these attributes.
Over half of the households in the region have purchased meat direct from a farmer or farmer’s market. Nearly half of the respondents (47%) would prefer to pay a price equal to the typical price for meat. However, if locally produced meat met the consumer’s needs such as food safety, (high) quality, USDA inspection, tenderness, juiciness, and farm fresh taste, then a premium price may be asked for the products.
Among those who have purchased meat direct from a farmer, 47% were influenced to do so because they knew who raised the animals. Among respondents who have not purchased meat direct, 61% stated that product was not available or convenient for them to buy.
Consumers purchase chicken primarily because they like the taste and they believe the product is nutritious and healthy. However, if local chicken producers want to reach the greatest proportion of the population they should offer boneless and/or skinless chicken that is not frozen and is packaged in certain parts such as all breasts.
Among those who purchase chicken, nearly 11% have heard of pastured poultry, while 4.6% have purchased this product. Thirty-five percent of the households have heard of free-range chicken, while 11% have purchased it. Among those who have purchased pastured poultry or free-range chicken, 61% have purchased the product direct from a local farmer.
Among those who have purchased pastured poultry or free-range chicken, 37% prefer to purchase this product at a price equal to the typical retail price for chicken. However, if this product met the consumer’s needs such as food safety, (high) quality, USDA inspection, tenderness, juiciness, and farm fresh taste, then a premium price may be asked for the products.
The annual income among those who have purchased pastured poultry or free-range chicken is significantly higher than the sample as a whole. However, the potential pastured poultry and/or free-range chicken buyers have similar demographics to the entire sample of respondents. Among those who have not purchased pastured poultry or free-range chicken, 24% would try the product if it had a reasonable, competitive, or comparable price. In addition, the vast majority of households who have not purchased pastured poultry or free-range chicken would prefer to purchase this product from a conventional grocery store.