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

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

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

Two surveys were conducted to assess consumer and professional chefs' perceptions of three edible-flower species. Our objectives were to determine opinions, preferences, and uses of Viola tricolor L. `Helen Mount' (viola), Borago officinalis L. (borage), and Tropaeolum majus L. `Jewel Mix' (nasturtium). Flowers were grown using certifiable organic methods and chosen to reflect a variety of flower tastes, textures, and appearances. We quantified three attributes (taste, fragrance, and visual appeal) with a total of seven semantic, differential scales adapted from a scaling authority. The attributes were rated as: visual—“appealing”, “desirable,” and “very interested in tasting”; fragrance—“appealing” and “pleasant”; and taste—“tasty” and “desirable”. Garden Day participants were self-selected to evaluate and taste flowers from a consumer perspective. When asked to rate the three species on visual appeal and desire, no less than 76% of consumers awarded all flowers an acceptable rating. We found similar results when consumers answered questions regarding the taste of two of the three species. Results from this study support our hypothesis that customers would rate edible flower attributes highly and would be likely to purchase and serve the three species tested. Members of the Michigan Chefs de Cuisine Association participated in a similar survey. At least 66% of these chefs rated the three visual attributes and two fragrance attributes of viola and nasturtium acceptable. Chefs' ratings of the fragrance of borage as “appealing” and “pleasant” were higher than those of consumers, but the ratings were still low, 21% and 25%, respectively. Unlike consumers, chefs' ratings of the taste of viola as “appealing” and “desirable” were low (29% and 36%, respectively). We found some minor differences in ratings when groups were compared, using demographic variables as a basis for segmentation, indicating a homogenous marketing strategy may be employed.

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

Two surveys were conducted to determine characteristics important in containerized edible flowers that could be sold in retail outlets. Self-selected participants at Bloomfest at Cobo Hall, Detroit, were assigned to one group that rated the importance of attributes such as color of pansy (Viola ×wittrockiana Gams. `Accord Banner Clear Mixture'), color combinations, container size, and price. Participants assigned to a second group rated color, color combinations, and container size. Flower color was allocated the most points in the purchasing decision (63% for the first group and 95% for the second), with a mixture of all three colors (blue, yellow, and orange) being the most desirable. Responses were subjected to Cluster Analysis (SPSS Inc., Chicago), which resulted in the formation of three distinct groups. The groups were labeled “Likely Buyer” (those who had eaten and purchased edible flowers before and rated characteristics of edible flowers favorably); “Unlikely Consumer” (those who had eaten edible flowers before and had rated characteristics of edible flowers unfavorably); and “Persuadable Garnishers” (those who had not eaten edible flowers before, but were very likely to purchase edible flowers for a meal's garnish).