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Free access

Alicia Rihn and Hayk Khachatryan

Consumer awareness of neonicotinoid (neonic) insecticides is growing (in part) due to increased publicity and media attention. Environmental groups want neonic insecticides to be banned because of their perceived potential negative consequences on nontarget species (especially bees and other pollinator insects). Several retail outlets and governmental agencies are now requiring the ornamental horticulture industry (hereafter, green industry) to label plants grown using neonic insecticides. Although the scientific value of the mandatory labeling policies are debatable, neonic labeling may negatively influence consumers’ demand for plants. Research on consumers’ awareness of neonic insecticides is limited, and the extent to which awareness influences preferences and shopping behavior is less understood. This manuscript addresses these research gaps by investigating correlations between awareness of neonic insecticides, knowledge about related topics (e.g., gardening and pollinator insect health), and purchase likelihood, using an online survey of 921 U.S. consumers. Results indicate that only 24% of surveyed plant purchasers are aware of neonic insecticides. Consumers who are aware of neonic insecticides are more knowledgeable about plants that improve pollinator health and entomology than those who are not aware. Labels with “neonic-free” wording were the least preferred and influential pollinator-related in-store promotion. However, awareness of neonic insecticides was positively correlated with consumers’ purchase likelihood for “neonic-free” plants. Overall, awareness influences consumers’ shopping behavior, which could necessitate altering green industry pest management strategies as consumers’ awareness of neonic insecticides increases due to the negative publicity surrounding it.

Free access

Hayk Khachatryan and Alicia Rihn

Declining pollinator insect populations has become an important environmental concern in recent years. Despite widespread awareness, consumer perceptions of production practices (i.e., natural and organic) and effects on pollinator health are not well understood. This study assessed consumer perceptions of pollinator-friendly plant production practices in nursery production systems for food crop plants and landscape plants. Understanding consumer perceptions of horticultural production practices related to pollinator health is important because this impacts consumers’ product selection (e.g., landscape and food crop plants), sales, and the availability of pollinator-friendly products in the residential landscape. We used an online survey of 1243 U.S. consumers who ranked the importance of 11 different production practices for both food crops and landscape plants. Results were analyzed using an ordered probit model and showed that plant type influences perceived importance of the production practices. For food crop plants, grown without pesticides practice was perceived as the best production method for pollinator health, whereas grown outside practice was ranked the highest for landscape plants. Grown using synthetic pesticides practice was ranked the least beneficial method regardless of plant type. Results contribute new insights into consumers’ perceptions of pollinator-friendly production practices relative to plant type (i.e., landscape vs. food crop plants) which green industry stakeholders can use as they assess production methods or marketing strategies.

Open access

Xuan Wei, Hayk Khachatryan, and Alicia Rihn

In recent years, growers in the ornamental horticulture industry have experienced declining revenue and shrinking profit margins due to increased consumer spending captured by wholesale stores bypass, price competition at the retail level, as well as relatively low consumer demand. Maintaining cost-effective production practices is critical for nursery and greenhouse growers to stay profitable. However, a recent trend to impose more restrictive labeling polices on pesticide use (i.e., disclosing the use of neonicotinoids) may impact growers’ already tightening production costs. A better understanding of the cost structure and production decision-making can provide insights for profitable operation. Using a partial enterprise budgeting approach, this research aims to evaluate production costs and profitability for 20 individual greenhouse annual and perennial crop production systems. Three primary economic performance indicators (net income, gross margin, and profit margin) were calculated and a sensitivity analysis was conducted to account for potential risks in production. Our results suggest that production costs vary significantly among different crops, thus implying that producers may have different profitability levels depending on the combination of crops grown. Our partial enterprise budgeting estimates serve as a reference point and can assist producers with reducing costs in specific areas, and aids in selecting and adjusting crop combinations to maximize potential profits. Sensitivity analysis scenarios provide insights to producers for evaluation of their entire operations and aid in making decisions on adopting alternative practices.

Full access

Benjamin Campbell, Hayk Khachatryan, and Alicia Rihn

Certain pesticides are coming under scrutiny because of their impact on pollinator insects. Although most consumers express willingness to aid pollinators, the reasons for consumers’ preferences or barriers to purchasing pollinator-friendly plants and the types of pollinators’ that consumers are trying to protect are less understood. Using an online survey of 1200 Connecticut (CT) consumers, of which 841 had home landscapes, we find that 46% of consumers with home landscapes purchased pollinator-friendly plants to attract pollinators to their landscape. Consistent with past research that focused on consumers’ preferences for pollinator-friendly plants, the data also reveal that some consumers are willing to pay premiums for plants that contribute to pollinator’s health. However, only 17% stated that attracting pollinators was their primary motivation; a finding that suggests labeling alone will likely not motivate consumers to purchase plants. The major barriers to purchasing pollinator-friendly plants included lack of labeling (cited by 28%), followed by high price (28%). Consumers purchasing pollinator-friendly plants were trying to attract butterflies (Lepidoptera) (78%), bees (Apidae) (59%), hummingbirds (Trochilidae) (59%), and other birds (41%). We also find that demographics and purchasing behavior affect barriers and types of pollinators desired. Simply labeling plants has the potential to increase purchasing, but increasing price could be detrimental as many consumers feel pollinator-friendly plants are highly priced. Implications for ornamental horticulture stakeholders are discussed.

Free access

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.

Free access

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.

Free access

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.

Open access

Julie Campbell, Alicia Rihn, and Hayk Khachatryan

Home lawn fertilizer use throughout the United States is coming under increased scrutiny due to potential negative environmental impacts. A better understanding of how consumer perceptions and socio-demographics impact their choices of types of lawn fertilizers can aid industry stakeholders when marketing products. This research uses a nationwide survey to evaluate factors that impact respondents’ choice of lawn fertilizer brands. Respondents with home lawns selected the lawn fertilizer brands they purchased the most frequently and rated the importance of various fertilizer attributes (e.g., nitrogen–phosphorus–potassium ratio, brand, price, etc.) when selecting lawn fertilizers. Given many lawn fertilizer brands share commonalities, respondents’ answers were grouped into five categories: most popular brand, primarily turf brands, sustainable/organic brands, other brands, and “I don’t remember the brand.” The most popular brand of fertilizer was chosen by 69% of respondents, with the primarily turf brands and other fertilizers being chosen by 25% and 23% of respondents, respectively. This study finds that brand selection is impacted by important fertilizer features, frequented retail outlets, geographical region of residence, and demographic variables. For example, brand importance and purchasing from mass merchandisers or wholesale clubs increased respondents’ selection likelihood of the most popular brand by 6.9% and 20.5% points, respectively. Marketing implications are discussed.

Open access

Ariana P. Torres, Alicia L. Rihn, Susan S. Barton, Bridget K. Behe, and Hayk Khachatryan

Online advertising is becoming a mainstay business practice to reach firms’ customer bases. Yet, the adoption and use of online advertising in the green industry are topics that have not been adequately researched. Using a national survey of green industry firms conducted in 2019, this research uses a double-hurdle model to investigate factors that impact firms’ adoption of, and amount spent on, online advertising. Our results show that one-third of the companies invested in online advertising. Of those investing in online advertising, the average percentage of online advertising as a share of all advertising expenditures was 46%. Small businesses were less likely to invest in online advertising compared with larger businesses; however, once they invested in online advertising, the percentage of investment was 25% higher among small firms when compared with their larger counterparts. Increasing years in operation as well as trade show participation was related to a 3% decrease in likelihood to use online advertising. Business owners who perceived hiring competent employees as a barrier to business growth invested 19% less of their advertising budget in online channels, which may indicate a lack of human resources to advertise online. We also compared the industry results with data from a 2014 survey and found the amount invested in online advertising increased ≈3% to 5% between studies. The percentage in wholesale sales influenced the amount spent on online advertising in 2014 but not in 2019. Being a small firm in 2014 increased the amount spent on online advertising, but the effect was 14% lower in 2019. In 2014, firms located in the Pacific, Southcentral, and Southeast U.S. regions invested more in online advertising compared with other regions, but in 2019, the only geographic difference was that firms in the Great Plains spent less on online advertising. Despite their lower adoption rates, the increased expenditures on online advertising implies that smaller firms that implement online advertising receive value through that channel and are willing to allocate more resources to leverage its reach. Firms contemplating adopting and investing in online advertising should consider their resource availability and marketing goals related to reaching different customer groups through online advertising.

Open access

Alicia L. Rihn, Ariana Torres, Susan S. Barton, Bridget K. Behe, and Hayk Khachatryan

The landscape service sector is an important part of the environmental horticulture industry. However, research addressing factors impacting its business and marketing practices are scarce. This manuscript uses data collected via online and mail industry surveys in 2014 and 2019 to investigate U.S. landscape service firms’ advertising and marketing practices and different factors that influence their business strategies by firm type and size. Product mix, advertising method, and the importance of different business factors were impacted by firm type. Landscape service only firms had the most diverse product offerings, while firms with wholesale production had the least diversity. Landscape service only firms primarily used in-person and telephone advertising, while firms with wholesale production used a broader swath of advertising medias to reach a more diversified clientele. Overall, weather and labor-related factors had the most impact on landscaping firms’ business practices. Larger firms perceived labor factors as more important than smaller firms.