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

Neonicotinoids have recently been implicated by the media as a contributing factor to the decline of honey and bumblebees. We sought to better understand consumer perceptions and willingness to pay for traditional, neonicotinoid-free, bee-friendly, or biological control pest management practices as growers may seek alternative management practices to systemetic insecticides. We conducted a nationwide Internet survey (n = 3082), where consumers answered attitudinal, comprehension, likelihood-to-buy, and demographical questions about indoor (marketed in 10-cm pots) and outdoor (marketed in 30-cm hanging baskets or 10-cm pots) floriculture products. The likelihood-to-buy questions were analyzed using conjoint analysis to determine which attributes had the greatest part-worth scores or which ones were viewed most positively by survey respondents. Of the total participants, 65.1% (n = 2002) of the subjects had purchased an annual flowering plant in the 12 months before the survey. Respondents reported that the most important plant health and appearance factors that affect their purchasing decisions were that the flowering plants have no plant damage, while the second most important factor was that plants have no insects on them. The least important factor in the ranking of stated importance was that no neonicotinoid insecticides were used during the production of the plant. This finding may have resulted from 56.6% of all participants who reported that they did not understand the term. For those who viewed the indoor 10-cm flowering plants (n = 1052), the plant species accounted for 41.2% of the decision to purchase the plant, followed by production type (32.8%) and price (26.0%). All three product attributes were of equal importance to the subjects who viewed the outdoor 10-cm flowering plants (n = 1024), whereas only price had a lower relative importance when compared with production type and species for those who viewed the 30-cm hanging baskets (n = 1006). Across all three studies, use of the term “bee-friendly” had the greatest economic value because it had the highest part-worth utility score, or the greatest willingness-to-buy. For the subjects who viewed the outdoor plants, “bee-friendly” and “use of beneficial insects” had greater economic value (with positive part-worth utility scores), but “neonicotinoid-free” and “traditional insect control” both had negative part-worth utility scores, indicating they were valued less and detracted from the dollar value of the plant. The term “bee-friendly” was worth up to five times more to those respondents that had bought a plant in the last 12 months compared with those who had not. Therefore, if ornamental plants are labeled with pest management practices, most consumers value the term “bee-friendly” more and will likely discount products labeled “neonicotinoid-free.”

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Amy H. Simonne, Bridget K. Behe, and Maurice M. Marshall

Fresh and processed tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) consumption has increased 40% in the United States over the last two decades. Through better breeding, fresh tomatoes now are marketed in different forms, sizes, colors, and flavors. However, little published information exists concerning consumer demand, preference, and demographic characteristics related to fresh tomato consumption. Taking advantage of a high percentage of Internet use in the U.S., two web-based surveys were released to approximately 6000 e-mail addresses reaching people in every region of the U.S. The surveys contained a total of 61 questions, including 50 digital images of five types of tomatoes (cherry, grape, cluster, plum, and regular slicing) with combinations of three additional factors (price, lycopene content, and production style) and demographic information. Among 389 respondents, 76% preferred and purchased slicing tomatoes in the 4 weeks prior to the survey. These were followed by grape/mini-pear (42%), plum (36%), cluster (27%), cherry (25%), and yellow slicing tomatoes (4.4%). Overall, production method (organic vs. conventional) had low relative importance in comparison to price and tomato type. However, younger participants (<age 38 years) placed more importance on production method. Participants between ages 39 and 57 years were the most price-sensitive, and female were less sensitive than males. Younger participants (<age 38 years) were less price-sensitive and placed more importance on the other attributes (production method, lycopene content, and tomato type).

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Mary Hockenberry Meyer, Bridget K. Behe, and James Heilig

Six hundred homeowners, equally divided among rural, suburban, and urban areas in Minnesota responded to a 1999 phone survey on their lawn size, maintenance practices, and the perceived environmental impact of their lawns. The average lawn size was estimated to be 0.62 acres (0.25 ha), with an estimated 872,660 total acres (353,427 ha) in home lawns in Minnesota. Annual spending on lawn care per home was about $200, with an estimated $150 million spent annually in Minnesota. Participants reported low maintenance practices and pesticide use. A majority thought fertilizers and pesticides were harmful to the environment and public health. Respondents felt strongly that the government has a right to regulate fertilizers and pesticides in public park and lawn areas, but were divided with regard to the appropriateness of regulation on private property. Many (78.9%) disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement that their lawn was harmful to the environment. Most (60%) felt their lawn could have an effect on the environment and 71% felt they personally could make a difference in the environment by how they maintained their lawn.

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Bridget K. Behe, Elizabeth H. Moore, Arthur Cameron, and Forrest S. Carter

The U.S. wholesale market for flowering potted plants, valued at $701 million in 2000, is growing much slower than the $2.1 billion bedding plant market, indicating the product life-cycle of the former may have matured. A mature product yields little profit. Customers who purchase flowering potted plants for indoor enjoyment may have expectations about them, including that plant life is finite and there is no opportunity for outdoor use. Because scientists have discovered how to force selected perennials to flower, marketers may reposition them as indoor flowering potted plants, creating a new product and potentially stimulating sales of this lagging floral category. One method for relating customer perceptions of new products to familiar ones is perceptual mapping, which shows how consumers implicitly categorize products. Defining how consumers perceive the relationships between the selected flowering plants enables marketers to select the best opportunities for product positioning, merchandising, and pricing. We surveyed 200 self-selected visitors at a Michigan flower show in Apr. 2000 to determine their uses for, preferences for, and perceptions of three traditional indoor flowering potted plants and six traditional outdoor perennials. Perceptions were recorded on a seven-point scale. Squared Euclidean distances were calculated to derive the map in which two major dimensions emerged: use (indoor/outdoor) and flower color. Campanula carpatica Jacq. `Blue Clips' and Oxalis crassipes Urb. were mapped centrally, indicating participants had no strong perceptions for how these plants should be used. This suggests that Campanula and Oxalis have the greatest potential to be positioned for dual indoor and outdoor enjoyment, which may also yield some enhanced profitability.

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Bridget K. Behe, Lillie V. Purvis, Lisa M. Beckett, Charles H. Gilliam, and James O. Donald

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Bridget K. Behe, Patricia T. Huddleston, Charles R. Hall, Hayk Khachatryan, and Benjamin Campbell

Brands differentiate products from each other and help create the perception of added value. They influence product choice at the point of purchase with >70% of all buying decisions made in the store. Brands are often one of a few pieces of information consumers use to make product choices. Prior research showed that consumers had a greater likelihood to buy plant brands they had previously seen. To advance both the academic and practitioners’ understanding of plant brands, we sought to investigate the role of real and fictitious brands and their effects on visual activity and purchase intentions. Would simply including information on the container (e.g., fictitious brand) sway visual activity and purchase intentions? To investigate this notion, we conducted an in-person survey with a conjoint design in four states during May and June, 2015, using two flowering annuals and two flowering shrubs. Our goals were to assess consumers’ expressed and implicit preferences and, at the same time, monitor their gaze to determine how subjects used the real and fictitious brands as cues in their purchase decision. We showed 214 study participants digital images of 16 plants, varying the plant type, brand, and price; asked about brand awareness and familiarity; collected demographic and plant purchase information; and recorded their gaze as they viewed the images. We segmented the sample into three clusters, comparing their brand awareness and familiarity, conjoint analysis results, and the two visual measures: time to first fixation (TFF) and total fixation duration (TFD) on the container. The three clusters identified varied in their level of brand recognition and awareness but were similar in the relative importance and part-worth utility (PWU) mean scores, indicating a relatively similar decision process. The visual activity varied slightly by brand, but the fictitious brand captured and held visual attention similarly to the two established national brands.