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Michael Gold, Mihaela M. Cernusca and Larry Godsey

Edible chestnuts are an ancient tree crop undergoing a global renaissance. Scattered efforts are under way throughout the U.S. to develop domestic chestnut production based on chestnut cultivars from Europe or Asia. Concurrently, it is necessary to redevelop the domestic market by reintroducing the chestnut as a food crop to a new generation of U.S. consumers. A study was conducted to gauge the familiarity of participants with chinese chestnuts (Castanea mollissima), eastern black walnuts (Juglans nigra), and northern pecans (Carya illinoensis) to determine their interest in buying, consuming, and preparing these nuts and the key attributes that influence purchase decisions. The study also determined participants' interest in obtaining more information about the production, marketing, cooking, preparation, and nutritional information of nuts. Results of the study show that consumers were not familiar with chestnuts. Most had never tasted a chestnut, but did have interest in exploring them as a new food. Quality and nutrition-diethealth were consistently listed as the most important attributes influencing purchase and consumption decisions for chestnuts and black walnuts but for pecans, locally grown was the most important attribute.

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Phillip M. Mohebalian, Mihaela M. Cernusca and Francisco X. Aguilar

This study contributes to the limited research on elderberry (Sambucus sp.) marketing and consumer preferences by eliciting consumers’ familiarity with elderberry products and identifying and profiling market segments for elderberry products. Results of a survey, distributed online to a sample of U.S. consumers, show one-third of respondents to be familiar with elderberry. The most common elderberry products sampled and purchased were juice, jelly, and wine. The consumer sample was divided into current and potential consumer groups. Health-conscious and less health-conscious consumer segments were identified within each group, composing four market segments in total. Current elderberry consumers (14% of respondents) are on average younger, more educated, and less price sensitive than potential consumers. They strongly prefer locally produced juices and elderberry juice to other types of juices. For this category of consumers, elderberry juice products can be positioned as novelty products that are perceived to be healthier and more expensive than other comparable products. Including a qualified health claim on the label would reinforce the health benefits of elderberry products and potentially increase less health-conscious consumers’ likelihood to purchase them. Market segments comprised of those who have not tried elderberry yet are characterized as appreciating locally produced products but as having greater price sensitivity than current consumers. Elderberry juice products can be introduced to these segments as value healthy products [similar to cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon)], emphasizing the health benefits and local origins while maintaining a lower price.

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Phillip M. Mohebalian, Francisco X. Aguilar and Mihaela M. Cernusca

This study is the first of its kind in eliciting U.S. consumer preferences for elderberry juice and jelly products. An online survey collected self-reported information from 1043 U.S. residents. Results of a conjoint analysis suggest elderberry products that disclose qualified health claims and are produced locally were the best positioned to compete for greater shares in the jelly and juice product markets. Although consumers were 27% less likely to purchase elderberry jelly and 23% less likely to purchase elderberry juice relative to products containing competing fruit types, ceteris paribus, the fruit type product attribute determined only 9% of jelly and 13% of juice stated purchasing decision. More important than fruit type, consumers valued product price, disclosure of health claims, and origin. Consumers were 3.7 times more likely to choose locally produced jelly products than imported jelly and twice as likely to select products disclosing health claims compared with jelly products without claims. Likewise, consumers were 3.3 times more likely to choose locally produced juice products than imported juice products and 2.1 times more likely to select juice products with health claims than without. Our results indicate that an introductory strategy that combines the strength of preferences for locally produced products along with the disclosure of health claims at a competitive price can be an important tool in expanding the market for elderberry products in the United States.

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Michael A. Gold, Mihaela M. Cernusca and Larry D. Godsey

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Michael A. Gold, Mihaela M. Cernusca and Larry D. Godsey

In 2004, a nationwide survey of chestnut (Castanea spp.) producers in the United States was conducted. Results show that the U.S. chestnut industry is in its infancy. The majority of chestnut producers have been in business less than 10 years and are just beginning to produce commercially. Volume of production is low (<1.5 million lb). U.S. chestnut producers are mainly part-timers or hobbyists with small, manually harvested operations. The majority of respondents sell fresh chestnuts. Demand exceeds supply, and prices often exceed $3.50/lb. Barriers to success in the chestnut business include the lack of information for producers, retailers, and consumers, 5- to 10-year time lag to get a return on investment, and shortage of available chestnut nursery stock of commercial cultivars. There are also concerns related to pest and disease control and market uncertainties. Lengthy quarantines for cultivars from other countries and lack of chemicals registered for use with chestnuts can also be considered barriers to success. Chestnut grower associations, universities, and state and federal agencies must join their efforts to fund and support chestnut research and industry development.

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Francisco X. Aguilar, Mihaela M. Cernusca and Michael A. Gold

This article explores consumers' preferences for different chestnut (Castanea spp.) attributes and studies differences across potential market segments. The study was conducted between 2003 and 2007 during the Missouri Chestnut Roast festival. The festival, held annually in October during the chestnut harvest season, is one of mid-Missouri's premier family-oriented events. A longitudinal study completed among festival visitors in 2003, 2004, and 2006 to identify chestnut characteristics that influence purchasing decisions was complemented with a conjoint analysis in 2007. The conjoint analysis used a conditional logit model to investigate responses from pairwise product profile comparisons. The attributes investigated include chestnut size (small, medium, and large), price ($3, $5, and $7 per pound), production process (organic and conventional), and origin (Missouri, United States, and imported). Results suggest a strong preference for locally and U.S.-grown compared with imported chestnuts. Local growers that provide the market with medium-size chestnuts that carry organic certification could command a market premium compared with imported/nonorganic certified chestnuts.

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Michael A. Gold, Mihaela M. Cernusca and Larry D. Godsey

Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinus edodes) have many nutritional and medicinal benefits. The cultivation of log-grown shiitake mushrooms encourages forest farming and can be an opportunity for farmers interested in developing an additional enterprise. In 2006, the University of Missouri Center for Agroforestry conducted a nationwide survey of shiitake mushroom producers to analyze the U.S. shiitake mushroom industry by taking into consideration the forces that influence competition based on Porter's five forces model. Shiitake mushrooms are grown primarily as a side business, especially those produced exclusively outdoors. Indoor production on sawdust generates higher income than outdoor production on logs, but log production is more suitable for a small-scale operation in an agroforestry setting. Barriers to entry are created by relationships in the market, economies of scale, and the learning curve effect. Although there are a limited number of spawn suppliers in the market, they produce quality inoculum and maintain good relationships with shiitake mushroom producers. The majority of respondents sell their shiitake mushrooms locally. Gourmet restaurants, farmers markets, and on-farm outlets are the main markets for shiitake mushrooms. Trends in demand are increasing and prices are high. Shiitake mushrooms can be replaced with other common or gourmet mushroom types, but also have their own identity for numerous nutritional and medicinal properties. Competition for log-grown shiitake mushrooms arises from shiitake mushrooms produced on sawdust and from imports. To successfully survive in the market, firms create competitive advantages through quality, customer service, and consistent supply. Barriers to success in the shiitake mushroom business include demanding work requirements, the need for a serious commitment to produce and market shiitake mushrooms, a 1-year time lag between investment and a return on investment, and insufficient production and marketing information. Grower associations, universities, and state and federal agencies must join their efforts to fund and support shiitake mushroom research and industry development.