PMA Consumer Research Finds Taste Driving Force In Fresh Produce Purchases

NEWARK, Del. -- New research by the Produce Marketing Association that explored what makes consumers decide to buy fresh produce has found that taste remains the top purchase influencer.

The national telephone survey of 1,000 consumers was conducted by Opinion Dynamics Corp. (ODC) in mid-January and sponsored by PMA's Information Center.

When asked to specify in their own words what's most important to them in deciding which fresh fruits and vegetables to buy, 23 percent of respondents said taste is most important. Taste was also the key factor in all regions of the United States, as well as among men and women.

Other top five purchase drivers (in order of preference) were health benefits (18 percent), appearance (16 percent), price (15 percent), and habit/buy every week (6 percent).

The survey reinforces the public's demand for good-tasting produce that PMA found in September 2003, when the association posed the same question to consumers. The 2005 results increased by 1 percent for the taste attribute and decreased slightly for health benefits and appearance. The price attribute increased 3 percent.

"For years our industry has educated consumers on the nutritional and health benefits of produce," said PMA president Bryan Silbermann. "We need to go further. Now our challenge is to offer shoppers new flavors and textures to engage their senses. As marketers our focus should go beyond getting produce from 'seed to store' and be devoted toward getting fruits and vegetables 'from seed to stomach.' The way to do that is to consistently deliver a flavorful and memorable experience."

With a renewed focus on more healthful eating by many consumers, PMA also asked survey respondents if they resolved to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables in 2005 and why they will do so. Half of consumers said they had resolved to eat more produce this year, while 48 percent said they wouldn't. The likelihood to make that resolution came more often from women (56 percent), people under the age of 30 (53 percent), lower-income respondents (63 percent), and non-Caucasian respondents (66 percent).

Of those who indicated they would increase their fruit and vegetable consumption, more than three-quarters (76 percent) cited health benefits as the reason. Diet/weight loss garnered 13 percent of responses, while 8 percent said they would eat more produce items out of habit/enjoy eating them.

When asked to specify which fruits and vegetables they would eat more of in 2005, consumers said:
--Apples (39 percent)
--Oranges (24 percent)
--Bananas (19 percent)
--Broccoli (16 percent)
--All/A Variety of Produce (11 percent)
--Greens: Collard/spinach/kale (11 percent)
--Tomatoes (10 percent)
--Carrots (9 percent)
--Beans/green beans (9 percent)
--Salads/lettuce (7 percent)
--Corn (6 percent)
--Grapes (6 percent)

"When one looks at the variety of produce items consumers said they'd eat more of, you can see a diversity of colors represented. This shows shoppers understand the principles behind eating a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables. We're pleased that the recently released Dietary Guidelines for Americans specifically reinforce that message, which bodes well for the 5 A Day The Color Way program," added Silbermann.
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