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Harvey J. Lang, Nancy Howard Agnew, and Bridget K. Behe

Determining consumer preferences for specific plant attributes and plant use can assist in the development of breeding program objectives and marketing strategies. Consumers in Ames, Iowa participated in an intercept-survey to determine their knowledge of, use of, and preference for several varieties of New Guinea Impatiens (Impatiens × hawkeri). Of the population surveyed, 44% had never seen New Guinea Impatiens. Of those that had previously purchased New Guineas, 40% purchased their plants from a retail greenhouse. Outdoor container plantings were the preferred use of New Guinea Impatiens. Mother's Day was chosen by 88% of the respondents as the most appropriate holiday for a gift purchase. Considering plant characteristics, consumers rated condition of the plant as the most important attribute, followed by flower color, flower number, and price. Consumers were asked to rate plants on display comprised of three factors: flower color, leaf variegation, and price. MANOVA was used to determine the most important factor and the trade-off consumers made when expressing a preference for one plant over another.

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Alicia Rihn, Hayk Khachatryan, Benjamin Campbell, Charles Hall, and Bridget Behe

A rating-based conjoint experiment combined with eye-tracking analysis was used to investigate the effect of plant attributes on consumer purchase likelihood for indoor foliage plants. The experiment assessed the effects of plant type (Dracaena marginata Lam., Guzmania lingulata, or Spathiphyllum wallisii Regel), volatile organic compound (VOC) removal capacity (high, low, or none specified), price ($10.98–14.98/plant), production method [certified organic, organic production (not certified), or conventional], and origin (in-state, domestic, or imported) on consumer preferences. An ordered logit model was used to analyze the data. Organic production methods, in-state origin, domestic origin, and high VOC removal increased participants’ purchase likelihood. Visually attending to the highest price point ($14.98) increased consumers’ purchase likelihood. Age, gender, child (<12 years), pet, relationship status, education, and ethnicity affected participants’ purchase likelihood for indoor foliage plants. Purchasing barriers for indoor foliage plants are also discussed. Results have implications for indoor foliage plant growers and retailers as they produce, promote, and sell their products.

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Ken Tilt, Bridget Behe, David Williams, Heath Potter, and Dwight Bunn

A survey was developed evaluating the preference of consumers for purchasing three alternative Christmas tree species. Trees included: Pinus virginiana, a traditional Alabama Christmas tree; a containerized Ilex × `Nellie R. Stevens'; and a cut × Cupressocyparis leylandii. Virginia pine and leyland cypress were rated higher than the holly. The average rating on a scale of 1 to 5 for the Virginia pine and the leyland cypress was 3.75 and 3.63, respectively. Consumers rated the holly an average of 3.29. A rating of 1 indicated a strong negative response and a rating of 5 offered a strong positive response for buying the tree. The median rating for all three species was 4, indicating that 50% of the participants rated them a 4 or higher. The mode, or most frequent rating, was 5 for all three species. Although the average rating for the holly was lower than the average for the Virginia pine and leyland cypress, the holly and the leyland cypress may have a market niche with >50% of the respondents indicating that they would purchase the trees.

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Chris Frank, Eric Simonne, Robert Nelson, Amarat Simonne, and Bridget Behe

Most bell peppers produced and consumed in the United States are green in color. However, red, yellow, orange, brown, white, black, and purple bell pepper are also available. While bell pepper consumption has been increasing in the past 10 years, limited information is available on how color, retail price, and vitamin C influence consumer behavior. A conjoint analysis of 436 consumer responses showed that color (75%) and retail price (23%) were more important than vitamin C (3%) in shaping consumer purchase decision. Six consumer segments were identified. Segments II to V preferred green bell pepper, while segments I and VI favored the orange and brown color, respectively. Demographic variables were not good predictors of segment membership. However, previous purchases of bell pepper significantly affected the probability of membership in at least one segment. These results suggest that while green is the preferred color, a market exists for orange, red, and yellow peppers. Results on price sensitivity suggest that profits at the retail level are likely to increase by increasing the price of green peppers, and decresing that of the colored ones.

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Kristin L. Getter, Bridget K. Behe, and Heidi Marie Wollaeger

Declining bee populations has garnered media attention, which has pressured plant retailers to ask or demand the reduction or elimination of neonicotinoid insecticide use in greenhouse production. This study investigated consumer perspectives on eco-friendly ornamental plant production practices in combination with a variety of insect management practices. Data from an online study were collected from 1555 Americans in May 2015. Over half (55%), nearly half (48.2%), and more than 30% of the participants felt that “bees are not harmed,” “better for the environment,” or “plants that attract bees,” respectively, was a characteristic of bee-friendly insect management practices. The latter group erroneously confused bee-friendly insect management practices with plants that are a potential food source for bees. When asked to rate various insect management plant production practices on a five-point Likert scale, consumer mean scores were positive (defined here as 3.5 to 5.0) for “plants grown using bee-friendly insect management practices,” “plants grown using insect management strategies that are safe for pollinators,” “plants grown using best insect management practices to protect pollinators,” and “plants grown using insect management practices that leaves no insecticide residue on the plant.” Plant species accounted for 31.6% of the decision to purchase the plant, followed by price (25.1%), insect management strategy (23.3%), and eco-friendly practices (20.1%) that was similar to prior published findings. Analyses showed that plants labeled as “grown using bee-friendly insect management practices” were worth $0.26, $0.26, $0.89, and $1.15 more than plants labeled as “grown in a sustainably produced potting soil/mix,” “grown using recycled/recaptured water,” “grown using protective neonicotinoid insecticides,” and “grown using traditional insect management practices,” respectively. In addition, plants labeled as “grown using best insect management practices to protect pollinators” were worth $0.10, $0.10, $0.73, and $0.99 more than plants labeled as “grown in a sustainably produced potting soil/mix,” “grown using recycled/recaptured water,” “grown using protective neonicotinoid insecticides,” and “grown using traditional insect management practices,” respectively. Thus, selected insect management strategies were valued more, on average, than eco-friendly production practices.

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Alicia L. Rihn, Chengyan Yue, Charles Hall, and Bridget K. Behe

Choice experiments were conducted to explore the market potential or value added when using longevity information and guarantees on cut flower arrangements in the retail setting. The objective of our study was to determine consumer preferences and willingness to pay for different vase life longevities and guarantees on cut flower arrangements. The choice experiment data were collected using online surveys with 525 U.S. consumers in July 2011. The choice experiment scenarios included single species or mixed species cut flower arrangements with varying vase life longevity (5 to 7 days, 8 to 10 days, 11 to 14 days), presence or absence of vase life longevity guarantee, personal or gift use, and price range ($7.99 to $11.99, $34.99 to $43.99). Two types of arrangements were used in the experiment, mixed arrangements consisting of different species of cut flowers and single-species arrangements consisting of six red roses plus a filler flower. We analyzed the data with a mixed logit model and Ward’s linkage cluster analysis. As expected, participants were willing to pay higher prices for cut flower arrangements with longer vase life longevity. The presence of a guarantee improved participants’ probability of selecting the corresponding cut flower arrangement. Using Ward’s linkage cluster analysis, we found there were three distinct consumer clusters: guarantee seekers (49% of the sample), value-conscious consumers (31%), and spenders (20%). Among the three clusters, guarantee seekers were more likely to select cut flower arrangements with guarantees. Value-conscious consumers were interested in both guarantees and longevity indicators. Spenders were least interested in longevity indicators and guarantees. We conclude floral retailers could successfully implement the use of longevity indicators and guarantees to increase consumer interest in cut flowers and generate profits. Target marketing strategies could then be developed by floral retailers to attract different consumer clusters.

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Bridget K. Behe, C. Fred Deneke, and Gary J. Keever

Tissue-cultured plugs of Nandina domestica Thunb. `Hat-hour Dwarf' and `San Gabriel' were grown in 1.5-liter pots under 30%, 47%, or 62% shade. After 20 weeks, plants were moved to a simulated consumer environment (SCE) maintained at 21C, ≈60% relative humidity, and a 12-hour photoperiod with an irradiance of 7 μmol·m -2·s-1. Final quality ratings (after 35 weeks in the SCE) for both cultivars were good, but the plant quality of `San Gabriel' declined more quickly than that of `Harbour Dwarf'. Final quality rating of `Harbour Dwarf' grown under the highest percentage of shade was higher than that of plants grown under 30% or 47% shade; production shade percentages had no influence on the final quality rating of `San Gabriel'. Plants (of both cultivars) grown in 0.6-liter (11-cm-diameter) pots were test-marketed through six supermarket floral departments and captured 16% of total 10- to 11-cm-size foliage plant sales. Sixty percent of consumers indicated the plant's “newness” as the primary consideration for its purchase. These two N. domestica cultivars could be marketed successfully as interior foliage plants.

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Alicia L. Rihn, Chengyan Yue, Bridget Behe, and Charles Hall

Demand for fresh-cut flowers and floral products has been decreasing in recent years, particularly among young consumers. The objectives of this study were to explore Generations X and Y's positive and negative attitudes toward flowers as gifts; explore differences in perceptions about price, product, place, and promotions among Generations X and Y to determine the best marketing techniques to reach them; and determine what actions the floral industry can take to improve Generations X and Y's use of flowers as gifts. Participants were recruited in Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN, and Lansing and East Lansing, MI. Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire and participate in a focus group discussion. An ordered probit model was used to analyze the data. Results showed that younger consumers were dissatisfied with several floral product attributes, including short longevity, lack of trendiness, relative high cost, lack of appropriateness, and lack of uniqueness. Results also indicate that younger consumers perceived that their friends do not enjoy floral gifts. Additionally, younger consumers viewed floral advertisements less frequently and considered floral gifts difficult to purchase, resulting in decreased awareness and interest. Overall, most participants felt that in-store sales or discounts, greater flower longevity, more price ranges, and trendier arrangements/flowers would increase their use of fresh flowers as gifts.

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Ariana Torres, Susan S. Barton, and Bridget K. Behe

Little information has been published on the business and marketing practices of landscape firms, an important sector of the green industry. We sought to profile the product mix, advertising, marketing, and other business practices of United States landscape firms and compare them by business type (landscape only, landscape/retail, and landscape/retail/grower) as well as by firm size. We sent the 2014 Trade Flows and Marketing survey to a wide selection of green industry businesses across the country and for the first time included landscape businesses. Herbaceous perennials, shade trees, deciduous shrubs, and flowering bedding plants together accounted for half of all landscape sales; 3/4 of all products were sold in containers. However, landscape only firms sold a higher percentage of deciduous shrubs compared with landscape/retail/grower firms. Landscape businesses diversified their sales methods as they diversified their businesses to include production and retail functions. Landscape businesses spent, on average, 5.6% of sales on advertising, yet large landscape companies spent two to three times the percentage of sales on advertising compared with small- and medium-sized firms. Advertising as a percent of sales was three to four times higher for landscape/retail/grower compared with landscape only or landscape/retail firms; most respondents used Internet advertising as their primary method of advertising. The top three factors influencing price establishment in landscape businesses were plant grade, market demand, and uniqueness of plants, whereas inflation was ranked as the least important of the nine factors provided. A higher percentage of small and medium-sized firms perceived last year’s prices as more important in price establishment compared with large firms. A high percentage of large landscape companies said the ability to hire competent hourly employees was an important factor in business growth and management, but this was true only for about half of the small and medium-sized landscape companies.

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Dru N. Montri, Bridget K. Behe, and Kimberly Chung

Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has pushed to increase the number of farmers markets that accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (formerly known as food stamps) via Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT). However, a small percentage of farmers markets accept SNAP and little is known of the experience of the farmer-vendors who participate in central terminal model EBT programs at farmers markets. The objective of this exploratory study was to elucidate farmers’ attitudes regarding central terminal model EBT programs at selected Michigan farmers markets. This study used qualitative research methods and a case approach. Thirty-two farmers that participated in central terminal model EBT programs at farmers markets were interviewed. Three main themes emerged. First, based on their experiences, farmers expressed a positive attitude toward central terminal model EBT programs at farmers markets. Second, positive attitudes were often associated with the view that market managers had made it easy for farmers to accept EBT benefits and freed them from the administrative burdens of redemption and federal reporting. Third, farmers believed that accepting food assistance benefits attracted new customers to the farmers market thus expanding their customer base. While these results may not be reflective of farmers’ attitudes in other regions, the themes that emerged highlight topics that may be important considerations when making future decisions about the expansion of electronic food assistance programs at farmers markets.