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Kathleen M. Kelley, Bridget K. Behe, John A. Biernbaum, and Kenneth L. Poff

Do consumers prefer certain combinations of edible-flower species and colors over other assortments? Two hundred and sixteen people were self-selected for a survey at a Michigan flower show to rate 15 photographs of edible flowers arranged in 0.24-L, clear, plastic containers. Each container had either an individual species or combinations of Viola tricolor L. `Helen Mount' (viola), Borago officinalis L. (borage), and Tropaeolum majus L. `Jewel Mix' and `Tip Top Apricot' (nasturtium). To determine what color(s) of nasturtium participants would prefer, containers held either orange and crimson, peach and cream, or a combination of all four flower colors. Participants rated photographs using a semantic differential on a 7-point Likert scale (7 being the highest rating) based on their likelihood to purchase each container of edible flowers to serve to family and friends in a meal. Participants were asked an additional 21 questions regarding their attitudes about edible flowers, gardening habits, dining habits, and several demographic questions. Responses were subjected to conjoint analysis (SPSS Inc., Chicago). The addition of other species to nasturtium (viola, borage, viola, and borage) had a greater relative importance (53%) than the color of the nasturtium (47%). A mixture of all four nasturtium colors (peach, cream, orange, and crimson) was awarded the highest utility (0.091). Peach and cream nasturtiums or containers that did not contain any nasturtium flowers at all were least preferred (-0.070 and -0.083 utilities, respectively). Mean ratings that participants assigned to containers of edible flowers supported these utilities. The container assigned the highest mean rating included nasturtiums of all four colors, yet 66% were unlikely to purchase any container with 10% insect damage. Differences in preferences were noted using selected demographic characteristics such as age, gender, and income.

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Bridget Behe, Robert Nelson, Susan Barton, Charles Hall, Steve Turner, and Charles Safley

Consumers in five U.S. markets evaluated photographs of geranium plants with regard to purchase likelihood. Photographic images were colored electronically to produce uniform geranium plants with five flower colors (pink, white, red, lavender, and blue) and three leaf variegation patterns (dark zone, white zone, and no zonal pattern). Photographs were mounted on cards with five selected price points ranging from ($1.39 to $2.79). We randomly generated an orthogonal array, partial-factorial design for consumers to rate a reduced number of choices. Consumers shopping in cooperating garden centers located in Dallas, Texas; Montgomery, Ala.; Athens, Ga.; Charlotte, N.C.; and Wilmington, Dela., rated 25 photographs on the basis of their likelihood to purchase the plants shown. Conjoint analysis revealed that customers in the Georgia garden center placed the highest proportion of their decision to buy on leaf variegation (29%), while customers in the Alabama outlet placed the most emphasis on price (46% of the decision). Shoppers in Texas valued flower color most highly (58% of their decision to buy). Demographic characteristics and past purchase behavior also varied widely, suggesting diverse marketing strategies for geraniums.

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Bridget Behe, Robert Nelson, Susan Barton, Charles Hall, Charles D. Safley, and Steven Turner

Researchers often investigate consumer preferences by examining variables consecutively, rather than simultaneously. Conjoint analysis facilitates simultaneous investigation of multiple variables. Cluster analysis facilitates development of actionable market segments. Our objective was to identify relative importance and consumer preferences for flower color, leaf variegation, and price of geraniums (Pelargonium ×hortorum L.H. Bail.) and to identify several actionable market segments. We also evaluated the desirability of a hypothetical blue geranium. Photographic images were digitized and manipulated to produce plants similar in flower area, but varying in flower color (red, lavender, pink, white, and blue), leaf variegation (plain green, dark green zone, and white zone), and price ($1.39 to $2.79). Conjoint analysis revealed that flower color was the primary consideration in the purchase decision, followed by leaf variegation and price. A cluster analysis that excluded blue geraniums yielded four actionable consumer segments. When preferences for the blue geranium were included, six consumer segments were identified.

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Jessica M. Hicks, Bridget K. Behe, Thomas J. Page, Jennifer H. Dennis, and R. Thomas Fernandez

Customers take some risk when they buy plants, and the emotions they experience from that purchase are important indications of whether they will return to buy again. Previous research by Dennis et al. showed that regret, a negative emotion, caused consumer switching behavior by their intentions to either buy an alternative product, purchase products from an alternative retailer, or switch out of gardening entirely. What happens when things go right? Customer satisfaction has been the metric businesses use to quantify success in customer retention. If customers who regret the purchase switch, do happy customers return to buy again? This research investigated the role of customer satisfaction, delight (a positive emotion), and prior plant knowledge on repurchase intentions. An Internet survey with 659 flowering plant purchasers throughout the U.S. was conducted in Sept. 2004 to examine the initial purchase and the actual performance of the plant following purchase.

Data were analyzed using structural equation modeling with LISREL software. Results showed that customer satisfaction level and delight were not affected by prior plant knowledge. Satisfaction level did not affect repurchase intentions, but customer delight did. Results were consistent with existing literature, indicating that greater emphasis should be placed on delighting consumers, rather than merely satisfying them.

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Melinda Knuth, Bridget K. Behe, Charles R. Hall, Patricia Huddleston, and R. Thomas Fernandez

Water is becoming scarcer as world population increases and will be allocated among competing uses. Some of that water will go toward sustaining human life, but some will be needed to install and support landscape plants. Thus, future water resource availability may literally change the American landscape. Recent research suggests that consumers’ attitudes and behavior toward potable water supplies have changed in other countries because of greater social awareness and increasingly widespread exposure to drought conditions. We conducted an online survey of 1543 U.S. consumers to assess their perceptions about landscape plants, the water source used to produce them, and plant water needs to become established in the landscape. Using two separate conjoint designs, we assessed their perceptions of both herbaceous and woody perennials. Consumers placed greater relative importance on water source in production over water use in the landscape for both herbaceous and woody perennials included in this study. They preferred (had a higher utility score for) fresh water over recycled water and least preferred a blend of fresh with recycled water for perennials and recycled water used for woody perennial production. In addition, the group that did not perceive a drought but experienced one placed a higher value (higher utility score) on nursery plants grown with fresh water compared with those which were actually not in drought and did not perceive one. Educational and promotional efforts may improve the perception of recycled water to increase the utility of that resource. Promoting the benefits of low water use plants in the landscape may also facilitate plant sales in times of adequate and low water periods.

Open access

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

As more individuals use the Internet for business and leisure, the opportunities for firms to promote products and services and to communicate with consumers online increases. The objective of this study was to investigate green industry managerial decisions to engage in online advertising and how much to invest while determining the main drivers contributing to these decisions. A double-hurdle model analyses of 1735 responses to the 2014 National Green Industry Survey, which gathered information on business practices, showed >40% of green industry business invested in online advertising. Typically, businesses investing in online advertising spent more than 43% of all advertising expenditures in online methods, including websites, social media, and newsletters. Furthermore, the decision to engage in online advertising was driven by the percentage of wholesale and contract sales, market access, firm size, product mix, and business owners’ perceptions. Results also showed that the amount of dollars invested in online advertising depended on firm size, tools used to find customers, location, and business owners’ perceptions. Our findings can help extension personnel and policymakers with the design and deliver social media training and educational events. Our findings can also help green industry businesses understand the two-step nature of the decision to invest in online advertising.

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Mary B. Musgrove, J. David Williams, Bridget K. Behe, and Kenneth M. Tilt

Before analyzing the responses of Alabama garden center employees about the training they had received, we determined how satisfied 100 Alabama Master Gardeners were with the employee-s who helped them in the store from which they most often purchased plants for their homes, landscapes, or gardens. We mailed the primary survey to 472 employees of 130 retail garden center businesses in Alabama to determine the percentage of employees who received job training and the amount, frequency, and methods of training they received while working for their current employers (37% responded). Employees were categorized as managers (28%) or subordinate employees (72%) and full-time (72%) or part-time (28%). Forty-four percent of the employees had received some training at the time they were hired. Training continued for 68% of the respondents. Only 39% of the employees had a written description of their job responsibilities discussed with them. Most (85%) believed the training they received had prepared them to do their jobs well, but 82% said more training would increase their confidence in their work performance. Most employees were trained by one-on-one instruction (60%) and small-group sessions (5 or fewer persons) (65%). Few employees received training from videotapes (5%) or educational seminars (26%), and most that did were managers and full-time employees.

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Bridget K. Behe, Melinda Knuth, Charles R. Hall, Patricia T. Huddleston, and R. Thomas Fernandez

The strain on potable water supplies heightens the competition for water resources and potentially reduces the demand for outdoor plantings and landscaping. We conducted an online survey with 1543 respondents in 2016 to ascertain their water conservation and plant expertise, their involvement in water conservation and plant issues, and the importance of plants and landscaping. We also collected demographic characteristics. Cluster analysis results identified two key market segments comprising ≈50% of the sample each: those who are Actively Interested in Water Conservation and those who are Disinterested in Water Conservation. The Actively Interested segment was younger, had more adults and children in the household, and had a higher household income. In addition to having a higher mean score for water conservation involvement and expertise, the Actively Interested segment had a higher mean score for water conservation importance and impact, as well as plant expertise and involvement. The Actively Interested segment scored higher on select components relating to horticultural importance, including aesthetically beautiful landscapes, active landscape enjoyment, desire for a low maintenance landscape, and response in drought, compared with the Disinterested segment. The Disinterested segment scored higher on the Non-Landscape Use with no enjoyment. Findings suggest that pro–water-conserving attitudes are found among consumers who value outdoor landscapes and those individuals who spend more on plants. Results suggest that producers and retailers should focus marketing and communication efforts on low water use cultivar selection and operationalizing water-conserving behaviors more than convincing consumers that plant purchases and landscaping are important.

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Melinda Knuth, Bridget K. Behe, Charles R. Hall, Patricia T. Huddleston, and R. Thomas Fernandez

Activity level, or the amount of action/interaction with a product, can be an indication of interest in a product category and influences purchases. Our goal was to assess the overall market for landscape plants using consumers’ activity level from the active/passive continuum proposed by . An online survey instrument was administered to invitees from a national online panel from 7 to 13 Sept. 2016 yielding 1543 useful responses. Factor analysis of 23 items adapted from a previous study revealed five factors, including one active factor and a separate passive factor. These two factors were used in the present study as a basis for a k-means cluster analysis. Two clusters emerged and were labeled “Active Engagement” and “Obligatory Passive Engagement” in landscape activities. We compared cluster means for all five factors and found the Active cluster purchased more plants of all types as well as had greater landscape pride and desire for a low (water) input landscape. Members of the Active cluster were from higher income and education households which were slightly larger and more likely to have Caucasian residents compared with the Passive cluster. In practice, retail employees and landscape professionals might initially ask about consumers’ activity level desired in the landscape as a screening question. Subsequent assistance in design and/or plant selection/purchase could then be tailored toward the desired activity level.

Open access

Kellie J. Walters, Bridget K. Behe, Christopher J. Currey, and Roberto G. Lopez

Controlled environment (CE) food crop production has existed in the United States for many years, but recent improvements in technology and increasing production warranted a closer examination of the industry. Therefore, our objectives were to characterize historical trends in CE production, understand the current state of the U.S. hydroponics industry, and use historical and current trends to inform future perspectives. In the 1800s, CE food production emerged and increased in popularity until 1929. After 1929, when adjusted for inflation (AFI), CE food production stagnated and decreased until 1988. From 1988 to 2014, the wholesale value of CE food production increased from $64.2 million to $796.7 million AFI. With the recent increase in demand for locally grown food spurring an increase in CE production, both growers and researchers have been interested in using hydroponic CE technologies to improve production and quality. Therefore, we surveyed U.S. hydroponic food crop producers to identify current hydroponic production technology adoption and potential areas for research needs. Producers cited a wide range of technology utilization; more than half employed solely hydroponic production techniques, 56% monitored light intensity, and more than 80% monitored air temperature and nutrient solution pH and electrical conductivity. Additionally, the growing environments varied from greenhouses (64%), indoors in multilayer (31%) or single-layer (7%) facilities, to hoop houses or high tunnels (29%). Overall, producers reported managing the growing environment to improve crop flavor and the development of production strategies as the most beneficial research areas, with 90% stating their customers would pay more for crops with increased flavor. Lastly, taking historical data and current practices into account, perspectives on future hydroponic CE production are discussed. These include the importance of research on multiple environmental parameters instead of single parameters in isolation and the emphasis on not only increasing productivity but improving crop quality including flavor, sensory attributes, and postharvest longevity.