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Abstract

Specialty food aficionados, who use the Internet to gather information or place orders, resemble those who rely on mail order catalogs, except for being younger. Both groups are well- educated, wealthy, and frequent specialty food buyers. Among those studied, nearly all of the Internet users have considered shopping by catalog, half had used the Internet in the previous six months, and about 10 percent had actually purchased specialty food or beverages online. While preferring traditional retail shopping, this group views catalog and online shopping as substitutes. When choosing to shop via either of these options, product quality and uniqueness are most important; shipping costs and price are least important. These conclusions are based on a survey that builds on previous research which examined Internet users who visit food-related sites on the World Wide Web. It found a strong correlation between catalog and online purchasing activity. This paper reports the findings of a follow-up survey targeted at random samples of individuals on four specialty food companies' mailing lists. The survey identifies the demographics and purchasing activity of specialty food catalog shoppers and compares them to the population of Internet users who visit food-related Web sites. It examines catalog shoppers' use of the Internet and online shopping, and compares the relative importance of a variety of factors in the decisions to buy online and by catalog.

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