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Characterizing Local and Organic Food Consumers

Characterizing Local and Organic Food Consumers

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Characterizing Local and Organic Food Consumers

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  1. Characterizing Local and Organic Food Consumers Ohio River Valley Farm Marketing Conference February 23, 2005 Mason, OH

  2. Contact Information • Jeff Sharp, • Associate Professor Rural Sociology • 311 Ag. Admin. • 2120 Fyffe Road, • Columbus, OH 43202 • E-mail: • Telephone: 614-292-9410 • Website:

  3. Outline of Presentation • Introduction: Local and Organic Foods • Profiles of Ohio local and organic food consumers • Future Research

  4. Consumer demand • Changes in consumer demand have been impacting various types of commodities • Health, diet, and safety are important considerations • Some products benefit, some don’t from changing demand • Organic attribute has been one beneficiary--USDA reports that the organic and specialty crops market is growing by 20 percent each year

  5. Growing interest in local • USDA identified 1,755 Farmer’s Markets in its 1994 directory by 2004 there were 3,706 Farmer’s Markets • Growth of Community supported agriculture, over 1,000 operating in the U.S. from 0 in the 1980s • Growing interest among chefs to utilize locally produced foodstuffs

  6. Organic Industrialization & Local • Growth in organic market has led to some “industrialization” of organic production • “Industrialization” challenges the traditional link between organic and local production • Emerging question: How do local, organic producers adapt to market that includes lower cost, industrially produced organic organic products?

  7. Goal of Research • Our research endeavor is organized to distinguish the factors associated with local versus organic food consumption • Sociological interest in the role of class and access • Practical interest in providing information to food system stakeholders about consumer interest in these food items • This research is Part I of a three step sequence of analysis

  8. About the OH Survey of FAE Issues • Biennial Mail Survey of Rural & Urban Ohioans • Funded from variety of sources • College of FAES, OSU Extension, OARDC, variety of faculty and program collaborators • Household sample list from private vendor • Response rate ~56+ percent

  9. About the 2004 Sample • Sample is stratified to ensure representation from rural and urban areas of Ohio • Characteristics of 2004 parallel characteristics of Ohio population as reported in 2000 Census • Key differences—sample slightly more educated, reported slightly higher home values, and included a modestly smaller proportion of African American respondents

  10. Support for local and organic foods

  11. Ohioans’ self-reported frequency of purchasing local and organic foods

  12. Frequency of purchasing local and organic foods by region (% indicating frequently) *No significant difference by region

  13. Willingness to pay for local and organic foods

  14. Typology of Consumers

  15. Typology of Local vs. Organic Consumers • Many of the factors associated with support for organic have been substantiated in the literature, such as environmental concern and health concern • Few studies have looked at factors associated with local as a food attribute distinct from organic

  16. Basis for Typology • Four cell typology focusing on willingness to pay (WTP) more for local and/or organic

  17. Labeling Consumer Types • Disinclined = Those unwilling to pay more for either local or organic (36% of sample) • Organically Inclined = Those willing to pay more for organic only (6%) • Locally Inclined = Those willing to pay more for local only (25%) • “Super” Inclined = Those willing to pay more for both local and organic (33%)

  18. Organically Inclined (6 percent) • Strong belief that organic foods are healthier than conventionally grown foods • Often look for health information and most likely to indicate the use of food to maintain good health • Express the greatest concern for food safety • Most likely to have stopped purchasing a product due to a food safety concern • Express greater concern about mad cow disease

  19. Organically Inclined (cont.) • 70 percent reside in a city or suburb also most educated, on average • 15 percent are or have been members of a food co-op; relatively frequent use of natural food grocers • Less likely to come from a farm background and know far few farmers, on average, than other sets of consumers • Least trusting of farmers to protect the environment

  20. Locally Inclined (25 percent) • Large proportion of Southeast Ohioans • Frequent farmer’s market and roadside stand consumers • Know a relatively large number of farmers on average, most likely to have grown up on a farm or in the country (30 percent) • Strongest support for agriculture and greatest trust of Ohio farmers

  21. Locally Inclined (cont.) • Highly value food purchases that will keep a farmer in business • Relatively high rating of “Grown in Ohio” quality • Loss of farmland is a serious concern • Least positive view of organics • Do not think organics are healthier • Very low rating of organic label as a factor in decision making

  22. Super Inclined (33 percent) • Consistent with organically inclined • Strong belief that organically grown is healthier • Many have stopped buying products for food safety reasons • Often look for health information • More frequently shop at natural food grocer/co-op

  23. Super Inclined (cont.) • Consistent with locally inclined • Know quite a few farmers, on average • Trust Ohio farmers and have positive attitudes about agriculture’s importance to the state • Loss of farmland is a concern • Highly rate grown in Ohio attribute and purchases that will keep a farmer in business

  24. Super Inclined (cont.) • Members of this group are more likely than others to belong to some type of environmental organization and recycle • Most likely to maintain a vegetable garden • More common in NE, Central, and SW Ohio

  25. Disinclined (36 percent) • Second to taste (and related quality attributes), price is the most important consideration for these folks in their food purchases • Least likely to belong/contribute to an environmental organization

  26. Disinclined (cont.) • Least interested in knowing how food is grown and low concern with food safety • Least likely to look for health information when buying food products

  27. Concluding Observations • Important to note, super-inclined do not require local and organic attribute in same product • While “industrialization” of organic production is occurring, there is still a sizable market out there that values the local attribute and which may be inclined to pay for that attribute • There is also a sizable market out there that supports local, but is not excited by the organic attribute

  28. Additional Analysis • Need to further examine the super inclined and the local subsets • Determine whether there are additional distinguishing characteristics among those with an interest in local beyond simply whether it has the organic attribute or not.

  29. Next steps in the research • Continued Refinement of the Local and Organic Consumer Typology • 2005 – Survey of motivated food consumers (members of a food co-op and environmental organization) • 2005 – Series of focus groups gauging interest in local/organic foods with different socio-economic groups