How Consumers Use Social Networks to Connect with Food Retailers: Online and Social Media Tools

Posted: June 25, 2012

In an effort to provide stakeholders with information they can use to develop or enhance their social media presence, today we are sharing results pertaining to how our Internet survey participants connect with fruit or vegetable businesses.

We first asked participants to indicate which online or social media tools they found to be useful when they desired to connect with a business.  Regarding websites and emails, we discovered that nearly a third of respondents found a promotional website to be useful while only 23% found websites that sell products useful (as seen in Table 1).  About one in five found emails and e-newsletters useful.

Table 1.  Percent of participants who found the following components to be useful in connecting with a fresh fruit or vegetable company.

Percent response
 Website for promoting food products
 Website for selling food products
 Email newsletter
 Email sent by the business


When we looked at social media tools, we found that relatively few found the tools to be useful with regard to fresh fruit and vegetable businesses.  However, we did not, in this question, differentiate between different types of retail outlets so we are not able to indicate differences between farm markets and large-scale grocery stores, for example.

As seen in Table 2, though, there were certainly differences across age groups, with nearly a quarter of those between 18 and 36 finding Facebook to be useful.  The same general pattern held for blogs and Twitter, but the percentages were much lower.  The trend; however, was reversed for emails and e-newsletters.  In that case, those in older age groups were more likely to find those tools to be useful.

Table 2.  Percent of participants, segmented by age group, who found select social networks (Facebook, Twitter, blogs) and emails (newsletters and other emails sent by a food retailer) to be useful in connecting with a fresh fruit or vegetable company.

Age group
Email sent by business,
other than newsletter
 18 to 24
 25 to 36
 16.3%         17.1%      21.3%
 37 to 48
  6.5%         18.3%      19.0%
 49 to 64
        22.5%      23.4%
 65 and older
  0.9%         22.2%      31.6%


As you look at Table 3, you will see that there was also a significant difference between those with less than seventy six thousand dollars of income and those with higher incomes in terms of how useful these groups found Facebook Pages to be.  Those with higher incomes were about twice as likely to find these useful.

Table 3.  Percent of participants, segmented by income level, who found Facebook Pages to be useful in connecting with a fruit or vegetable business.

Income level
Percent response
$24,000 or less
$24,000 to $49,9999
$50,000 to $74,999
$75,000 to $99,999
$100,000 to $149,999   
$150,000 or greater 


Finally, Table 4 shows that 25% of those with a Master’s degree or higher found emails to be useful in connecting with fruits or vegetables businesses. Those with less education found emails to be less useful.

Table 4.  Percent of participants, segmented by education level, who found emails to be useful in connecting with a fruit or vegetable business.

Education level
Percent response
High school degree or less
Some college
College degree
Master's degree or greater


With this data, fruit and vegetable retailers can draw many different conclusions.  One conclusion is that no more than a third of any group found online and social media tools to be useful in connecting with a business around fresh fruits and vegetables.  This result may indicate that fresh fruits and vegetables are “staple” items that many consumers expect from a food retailer.  However, we did not analyze responses by type of retail outlet, so we cannot say this is true for direct markets as well as larger food retailers. Another conclusion is that participants found websites and emails to be more useful than social networks.  However, among social media tools, Facebook was indicated to be the most useful. 

In the next article, we will present data related specifically to how our respondents perceived Facebook as being a useful tool for various types of food retailers.  To view the entire YouTube series, please visit






Contact Information

Jeffrey Hyde, Ph.D.
  • Associate Director of Programs
Phone: 814-865-5666
Kathy Kelley
  • Professor of Horticultural Marketing and Business Management
Phone: 814-863-2196
Dana Ollendyke
  • Extension Associate
Phone: 814-863-5567