Farmers Markets: Consumer Trends, Preferences, and Characteristics

This study provides an overview of attitudes, preferences and characteristics of consumers who shop at farmers’ markets. Besides demographics, the characteristics examined in this report include consumption trends of fresh fruits and vegetables in terms of quantity and variety, preferences for organic produce, amount spent per visit, frequency of visits, number of farmers’ markets patronized, retail outlets visited by consumers during 1996, factors affecting where to purchase produce and consumers intentions to visit farmers’ markets in 1998. In addition, consumers’ expectations of quality, variety and the prices of farmers’ market produce compared to other retail facilities and a rating of farmers’ market characteristics are also presented. The results, based on a consumer survey of 336 patrons of New Jersey farmers’ markets, revealed that absence in customers’ vicinity, lack of knowledge about market existence and inconvenience in terms of time and location were the main reasons for not patronizing these outlets in 1996. The majority of respondents indicated that they had increased the amount and variety of fresh fruits and vegetables consumed compared to five years ago. On average, consumers spent $16 per visit and the majority had attended between 2 to 4 different farmers’ markets in 1996. The majority visited these facilities either once a week, once every two weeks or once a month. Compared to other retail facilities, consumers generally expected the quality of the produce sold at farmers’ markets to be higher. Additionally, they expected to find a wider variety of produce and lower prices. The majority of respondents indicated that quality and freshness were the most important factors affecting their food purchasing decisions. Survey results showed that peaches, apples, melons and blueberries were the fruits that consumers bought most frequently at New Jersey farmers’ markets, while sweet corn, tomatoes, peppers and snap beans were the most popular vegetables. In addition, baked goods, flowers, jams, jellies and preserves were the most demanded value-added items. Participants used fruits and vegetables for fresh consumption, v canning, freezing and preserving. With regard to methods of recognition, roadside signs, newspapers, passing by, word-of-mouth and flyers were mentioned the most. Consumers who are most likely to patronize farmers’ markets tend to be female, Caucasian, from higher income groups, at least 51 years old and well educated. Almost all respondents reported that they intend to visit farmers’ markets in 1998. On average, survey respondents ranked the quality of products and employee attitude as very good, while appearance of facility, convenience of location, variety of products, cleanliness of facility, parking and prices received a mean score between good and very good. In general, consumers tend to agree that freshness and direct contact with farmers are the main factors that drive people to farmers’ markets; that these facilities help support local agriculture and that by attracting customers to downtown areas, farmers’ markets boost local economies. The insights provided by this project are expected to help producers and managers of farmers’ markets allocate their resources more efficiently to better meet consumers’ needs. Moreover, patrons’ demographic and socio-economic characteristics could aid marketers in the identification of potential target markets.

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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2018-01-22

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