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Diane M. Narem, Mary Hockenberry Meyer, Chengyan Yue and Nicole Roth

The demand for native plants has been increasing as consumers exhibit stronger interest in sustainable gardening and landscaping. To determine whether point of sale (POS) displays increased consumer knowledge of native grass (Poaceae) benefits and affected consumer purchases, a marketing study was conducted over 2 years at five garden centers in Minnesota. A POS display poster and plant tags listing four benefits of native grasses were displayed at the garden centers in 2016 and 2017. We surveyed 341 consumers at these garden centers to understand consumer knowledge of native grasses and the influence of the POS display. Respondents totaled 84 (30.7%) who indicated they had bought a native grass that day, and of those 84, 54 (64.3%) had seen the display. The binary probit model estimates showed that seeing the POS display increased the likelihood of a native grass purchase. If a consumer had previously purchased a native grass, they were more likely to purchase a native grass again. Consumers who expressed a greater willingness to purchase native grasses based on their environmental benefits were more likely to purchase a native grass. However, neither the level of knowledge that consumers possessed about native grasses nor demographics significantly increased likelihood of purchase.

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Gianna Short, Chengyan Yue, Neil Anderson, Carol Russell and Nicholas Phelps

Aquaponics, an integrated system with both hydroponic plant production and aquaculture fish production, is an expanding alternative agriculture system. Many key questions about the overall feasibility of aquaponic systems remain unanswered. Of particular concern for start-up and established producers alike are consumer perceptions and willingness to pay for aquaponic produce and fish. This study reports results and analysis of a consumer survey about perceptions and preferences for aquaponic-grown products that was conducted in Minnesota during Feb. 2016. Probit and ordered probit models are used to evaluate the probability of different consumer demographic segments having various levels of knowledge and perceptions about aquaponics. About one-third of respondents had previously heard of aquaponics, and upon learning more about the system through the survey, respondents tended to be generally neutral or favorable to aquaponics. Price might be an issue for many consumers, but many tend to believe that aquaponics can impact the environment in a positive way. The results represent a first step toward building knowledge about the potential consumer base for aquaponics, which is a critical piece in the system’s potential overall profitability. It appears that consumer education and marketing will be key for the expansion of the market.

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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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Shuoli Zhao, Chengyan Yue, Mary H. Meyer and Charles R. Hall

The floral industry has experienced declining sales in the past few decades, causing many to speculate as to the underlying causes. To identify consumers’ spending patterns for fresh flowers and potted plants, we extracted and analyzed quarterly expenditure interview data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey, 1996 to 2013. Our analysis revealed consumption trends over time by age group, and compared the differences in expenditure patterns across states. Additionally, we employed the Heckman two-step model to estimate how flower consumption is affected by sociodemographic characteristics, geographic factors, housing status, and seasonal factors. The estimation results show that the source of declining demand can be attributed to the decrease in both number of flower purchasers and expenditure among purchasers. Many factors including age, marital status, gender, education, income, number of earners in household, population size of the residing city, house type, and number of rooms in the house affect the demand for fresh flowers and potted plants. Given that floral expenditure has been decreasing among consumers under 40 years of age for the past two decades, innovative marketing strategies to target this age cohort are essential for the floral industry’s success in the future.

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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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Shuoli Zhao, Chengyan Yue, James Luby, Karina Gallardo, Vicki McCracken, James McFerson and Desmond R. Layne

This study investigates U.S. peach producers’ willingness to pay (WTP) for potential improvement of peach fruit attributes. Data were collected from 124 U.S. peach producers. The choice experiment and socioeconomic data were analyzed using mixed logit (ML) models to estimate the producer WTP and preferences for peach attributes. The results indicate that the WTP for attribute values vary across peach producers from different production regions (California and eastern United States), with different selling targets (fresh and processed) and different orchard sizes (smaller or larger than 15 acres). These results provide useful information for peach breeders in prioritizing traits in their breeding programs.

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R. Karina Gallardo, Diem Nguyen, Vicki McCracken, Chengyan Yue, James Luby and James R. McFerson

Over 60 rosaceous crop breeding programs exist in North America, but no information has been available on which traits are targeted for selection or how breeders make such decisions. We surveyed all active rosaceous fruit breeding programs in the United States and Canada to determine: 1) the relative importance of over 50 plant traits that breeders select for 2) the likelihood of selection for the most important traits; and 3) the factors influencing breeders’ decisions. A double-bounded Tobit model was used to investigate the effect of supply chain parties, technical and socioeconomic challenges, and crop characteristics on the likelihood of selection for trait clusters. We found that consumer-driven forces positively impact the likelihood of selection for traits more than producer forces and a breeder’s own experience. Technical factors are as important as socioeconomic factors but less important than market-related factors. Our findings provide the first ever evidence that a socioeconomic approach in specialty crop breeding programs can contribute to an improved understanding of the effects of different supply chain factors on breeding programs’ trait priority setting.

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Bridget K. Behe, Benjamin L. Campbell, Charles R. Hall, Hayk Khachatryan, Jennifer H. Dennis and Chengyan Yue

Some consumers are becoming more interested in and purchasing products that are locally grown and/or ecologically friendly. Market segmentation and product targeting are efficient methods to allocate a firm’s scarce marketing resources to supply heterogeneous markets. This study’s objective was to identify consumer segments, focusing on their gardening purchases, to determine whether there were differences in consumer preferences for provenance and environmental attributes for transplant purchases. Using a consumer survey of U.S. and Canadian consumers, we found that participants who purchased different plant types had distinct preferences for varying environmental attributes and provenances. We profiled nine consumer segments, identifying their plant purchases and preferences for local and sustainably grown products and plant containers. Results provide plant producers and retailers with market segments that can be identified and targeted and provide a basis for customizable marketing communications to enhance profits.

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Bridget K. Behe, Benjamin L. Campbell, Charles R. Hall, Hayk Khachatryan, Jennifer H. Dennis and Chengyan Yue

Information plays a vital role in the purchase decisions of retail lawn and garden consumers. Consumers have readily adopted personal computers and Internet technology as a way of seeking information and/or making purchases online. However, the extent to which horticultural consumers specifically seek information and make purchases online is not well documented. Our interests for this project were driven by an interest in the impact of smartphone ownership and Internet search behavior on product purchasing related to gardening products and items and how search and purchase were similar to (or different from) non-gardening information and products. Given the sharp rise in the use of smartphones and mobile media use, we explored differences among online shoppers, specifically those who had searched online for gardening information with those who were online for other purposes. We found differences between those who had searched online for non-gardening information compared with those who had searched online for gardening information. Women were more likely to search online for both gardening and non-gardening information, but men were more likely to make online gardening purchases. Education level, ethnicity, and geographic location of residence had varying impacts on the likelihood of online search and purchase. Having searched online for non-gardening information increased the likelihood of an online purchase by 16%, whereas the likelihood of purchase increased to 19% for online gardening-related searches.

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Hayk Khachatryan, Ben Campbell, Charles Hall, Bridget Behe, Chengyan Yue and Jennifer Dennis

This study adds to the consumer choice literature by linking consumers’ environmental concern (EC) orientations (egoistic, altruistic and biospheric) to willingness to pay (WTP) premiums for proenvironmental attributes. Results from a mixed-ordered probit model showed that individuals were willing to pay a premium for energy-saving production practices ($0.131), non-plastic containers such as compostable ($0.227), plantable ($0.122), and recyclable ($0.155), and locally grown plants ($0.222). Individuals scoring high on the EC scale expressed higher WTP across all attributes—$0.148 for energy-saving practices, $0.288 for locally grown plants, and $0.255, $0.143, and $0.175 for compostable, plantable, and recyclable containers, respectively. Using the results, we discuss the practical implications for nursery and garden stores (i.e., communicating product attributes related information to consumers).