Local, organic top consumers’ desired qualities in $280 million fruit-producing plant market

Grape vine with grapes

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — If you’re a consumer in the market for a fruit-producing plant, you’re more likely to buy one if it’s locally grown or organic, an important finding for those making their living in the approximately $280 million-a-year niche U.S. market, new University of Florida research shows.

Limited availability of organically produced edible plants has created markets for these types of plants, according to a new Extension document, http://bit.ly/21KQ6zb, co-authored by Assistant Professor Hayk Khachatryan and Post-doctoral Researcher Alicia Rihn, both researchers at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

As part of a larger study, Khachatryan and Rihn tested 95 Floridians to investigate the effects of plant type, price, production method and origin on consumer preferences for fruit-producing plants. They asked participants to look at images of fruit-producing plants with different attributes and rate them on a scale, with 1 being very unlikely and 7 being very likely to purchase.

Researchers found the participants preferred to buy pineapple and blueberry plants more than kiwi vines. Furthermore, compared to conventional plants, consumers reported a higher purchasing likelihood for certificated organic or organically produced fruit plants. But consumers were less likely to buy imported plants than domestic ones.

While they were looking over the images of the plants, participants’ eye movements were recorded using eye tracking equipment. That means they measured how long participants kept their eyes fixed on specific plant attributes.

The gaze test showed participants wanted to buy plants labeled organic. If they fixated on price, they were less apt to buy the plant. If they saw the Fresh from Florida marketing logo – used by the Florida Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services – they were more likely to buy the plant.

“Results indicate that growers and retailers should leverage consumer interest in the state economy and buy their plants from area growers when selling to Florida consumers,” Khachatryan said.

Khachatryan and Rihn work at the UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka, Florida.

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By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

Source: Hayk Khachatryan, 407-410-6951, hayk@ufl.edu