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  • Author or Editor: Kathleen M. Kelley x
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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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Three separate marketing studies were conducted during 2000 to determine consumer purchase behavior, use, and potential for purchasing edible flowers. First, a telephone survey was administered to 423 randomly selected residences in the Metro-Detroit area. Participants with some college education were more likely to have eaten edible flowers, would be more likely to eat them, and would be more likely to buy them. A second survey conducted with 25 Michigan Master Gardeners collected more detailed responses about edible flower purchase and use. Females were more likely to purchase edible flowers than males. Single-person households were less likely to have grown edible flowers than larger households. Participants with an annual income ≤$39,999 were half as likely to have purchased edible flowers as the higher income group. A third consumer survey was conducted over a 6-week period with three Metro-Detroit area grocery stores where consumers purchased containers of edible flowers with an attached survey form. A total of 243 of 360 containers of edible flowers were sold, and we received a 27% response rate. All respondents (100%) with an annual income ≥$30,001 were likely to like the flavor of the flowers. Across all three studies, there were few significant differences between demographic characteristics, which indicates that a homogeneous marketing strategy may effectively reach consumers. Based on these results, there appears to be is consumer interest in edible flowers, some consumers have had experience using and serving them, and will purchase them in grocery stores if marketed to attract the consumers interest.

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Two separate studies using intercept survey methodology were conducted to define the components of a state plant promotional program—Pennsylvania Gardener Selects (PGS)—based on consumer preference and appeal. The first study, conducted 6 and 7 Mar. 2003 at the Philadelphia Flower Show in Philadelphia, Pa., involved 243 Pennsylvanians. Objectives were to define current gardening-related shopping habits, sources of gardening information, motives and limitations for pursuing gardening, and history of purchasing other Pennsylvania products. Responses were analyzed using cluster analysis to identify consumer–gardener segments that would potentially purchase PGS plants. Three distinct consumer segments were generated: “Novice Gardeners” (consumers with limited experience in gardening), “Casual Gardeners” (consumers with limited confidence in their gardening knowledge), and “Avid Gardeners” (consumers who express great interest in gardening). “Avid Gardeners” exhibited a greater level of interest in purchasing plants evaluated for Pennsylvania (average response, 6.5; based on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 is very unlikely and 7 is very likely), with 73% indicating that they had purchased Pennsylvania products; hence, they were a potential market for PGS plants. The second study, conducted 8 to 10 Mar. 2004 at the Philadelphia Flower Show involved 250 Pennsylvanians. Objectives for this study were to define consumer brand and product preferences, including container colors for the PGS program, plant tag style/color, and retail price (based on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 is very unlikely to purchase and 7 is very likely to purchase), as well as brand attributes these consumers valued. Responses were analyzed using conjoint analysis. Participants awarded the highest utilities to the white container with a black-and-white PGS logo (0.1149), keystone-shaped tag with color image and PGS logo (0.1099), and a retail price of $1.98 (0.4751). Spearman's rho was used to identify relationships among existing and related brand attributes. Correlations between participants’ response to brand attributes, including locally grown, ideal for local conditions, quality assurance, and independent testing program, as well as plant guarantee and publication with gardening tips, suggest that promotional materials should emphasize and include these qualities. Results from these studies indicate that there is interest in a state plant promotional program for Pennsylvania. To use resources wisely, consumers classified as “Avid Gardeners” would be the most appropriate to target first. To attract consumer attention and encourage purchasing at a retail outlet, containers and plant tags should have distinctive colors, and brand attributes and resulting consumer benefits should be emphasized on promotional materials.

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Two identical surveys were conducted with separate samples to determine consumer perceptions of the quality of five edible flower species. Participants were either members of a class that reviewed the history and uses of edible flowers at an annual, 1-day event (Garden Days) or Michigan Master Gardeners who attended a similar class. Participants were shown a randomized series of projected photographic slides of five edible flower species and asked to indicate whether they found the flower quality acceptable. The slides depicted a range of ratings of mechanical damage, insect damage, or flower senescence on a Likert reference scale (1 through 5) developed by the researchers. A flower rated 5 was flawless, while a flower rated 1 had substantial damage. Nearly one-half of all participants had eaten edible flowers before the study, and 57% to 59% had grown them for their own consumption, indicating many individuals had previous experience. Both samples rated flower quality equally and found pansy (Viola ×wittrockiana `Accord Banner Clear Mixture'), tuberous begonia (Begonia ×tuberhybrida `Ornament Pink'), and viola (Viola tricolor `Helen Mount') acceptable from stage 5 to 3. Both groups found the nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus `Jewel Mix') flowers acceptable at only rating 5. Garden Days participants rated borage (Borago officinalis) acceptable from ratings 5 to 3, while the Master Gardeners rated their acceptability from only 5 to 4. Participants also rated flower color (yellow, orange, and blue) as equally acceptable.

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A consumer-research study was conducted in two locations in Pennsylvania utilizing two survey methods: intercept and telephone. This study was designed to assess: 1) what national brand name plant material participants purchased in the past; 2) the consumer's awareness of the Pennsylvania Gardener Selects (PGS) program; and 3) the gardening habits and demographics of Pennsylvania gardeners. The first survey was an intercept survey of 390 self-selected participants who attended Ag Progress Days (APD), a 3-day outdoor educational event and farm implement show from 20-22 Aug. 2002. The second survey was a telephone survey of 500 randomly selected households in the metro-Philadelphia area and was conducted from 20 Aug. through 17 Sept. 2002. Only responses from Pennsylvania gardeners were used in the analysis of the results. A comparison of survey results indicated that metro-Philadelphia-area participants spent more on plant material annually than APD participants, who primarily resided in rural locations. The results showed that metro-Philadelphia-area gardeners tend to live in single-adult households and have one or more children, whereas APD gardeners tend to live in a household with two or more adults and have no children. Eighty-one percent of APD participants and 62% of metro-Philadelphia participants reported that they would be willing to purchase plant material that has been evaluated and chosen as being outstanding for use in all areas of Pennsylvania, a premise for the PGS program.

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Attendees at the 2001 Philadelphia Flower Show participated in an interactive-quiz-formatted survey on touch-screen computers to determine their knowledge and use of plant health care (PHC) and integrated pest management (IPM) practices. Participants answered 15 questions in three categories: 1) PHC practices (criteria for proper plant selection, correct planting practices, and reasons for mulching and pruning); 2) IPM practices (insect identification, plant and pest monitoring, and maintenance of records on pests found and treatments applied to their landscape plants); and 3) demographic and sociographic questions to aid in characterizing the survey population. Over half of the participants (58%) were interested in gardening and a majority (77%) were interested in protecting the environment. Most participants (66%) were between 36 and 60 years of age with a mean age of 47 years, 76% lived in and owned a single-family home, and greater than half (56%) had never purchased professional landscape services. Most recognized PHC criteria for proper site selection, although not all environmental site characteristics were recognized as being equally important. Nearly half (49%) identified the correct planting practice among the choices offered; while an equal number of participants chose among the several improper practices listed. Although reasons for mulching were properly identified by the respondents, excess mulching around trees was considered a proper planting practice by over 39% of the participants. When questioned about IPM practices, a majority reported that they identify pests prior to treating them (71%) and that they scouted their landscapes (82%). However, only 21% kept records of the pests that they had found and the treatments that they applied for those pests. Participants' responses were further examined using cluster analysis in order to characterize the participants and identify meaningful consumer knowledge segments for targeting future extension programming. Three distinct segments were identified: 1) horticulturally savvy (69% of the participants), 2) part-time gardener (25% of the participants), and 3) horticulturally challenged (6%). At least 47% of the horticulturally savvy and part-time gardeners correctly answered plant health care questions (44% of the total survey participants). These two segments included more individuals who were interested in gardening and protecting the environment and are potential targets for future PHC and IPM extension education programs. In contrast the horticulturally challenged recorded no interest in or opinion on gardening or protecting the environment. It is apparent that a majority of consumers are learning and employing PHC and IPM concepts. Proper site selection, planting practices, and mulching along with record keep- ing and pest identification proficiency remain key educational areas to be developed. Although not all gardeners are well versed in all subject matter, a basic knowledge of PHC and IPM is being demonstrated.

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An aging American population may be less willing than a younger population to install and remove a live, fresh-cut evergreen tree in their home for Christmas celebrations. An alternative to using traditional, large, fresh-cut or potted Christmas trees could be forcing these evergreen species in a small (≈1-L) container that could be displayed on a tabletop. We initiated this study to determine consumer preferences and marketability for six evergreen tree species produced for tabletop display and used three decoration themes and three price points. We constructed a web-based survey in which 331 participants were compensated with a $5 e-coupon for viewing 27 photographs of tabletop trees and providing preference and use information. The conjoint model accounted for 91.2% of the variance and showed that consumers valued tree species as the most important attribute (61% of the tree value), with decoration color/theme the second most important feature (27%) and, last, price (12%). Black Hills spruce (Picea glauca var. densata (Moench) Voss) was the most preferred species overall, and red was the most preferred decoration theme. Logically, the lowest price point was the most preferred. However, price was the most important attribute for participants younger than 25 years. The importance of price decreased as participant age increased until age 60, when price became a more important component. With a cost of production of $5.45 and decoration and shipping estimated at an additional $4.00, the product could be a profit generator priced at any of the tested price points ($14.95 and above).

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