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Investigating Value-Added Apple Product Consumption and Interest, Part I

Posted: February 6, 2012

The Ag. Entrepreneurship Extension Team at Penn State (farmbusiness.psu.edu) investigates opportunities for stakeholders (e.g. growers, wholesalers, processors, retailers) and disseminates applicable information to these groups. A few of us in the team have been focusing on gathering data from consumers residing in Pennsylvania and surrounding states pertaining to their fruit and vegetable purchasing attitudes and behaviors, with particular emphasis on better understanding the fresh and processed apple purchaser. We have conducted a few studies since 2008 and would like to share that data and provide examples of marketing strategies that stakeholders could implement based on the research.

 

Dr. Kathy Kelley, Dr. Jeff Hyde, and Dana Ollendyke
Departments of Horticulture and Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology
 

            For the study described in this article, we focused on learning about what value-added apple products consumers currently purchased and what products appeal as well as what influences the decision to purchase these items.  Our decision to investigate these issues is based on the relevancy of value-added apple processing to the northeastern United States.  Between 2006 and 2010, that region (which extends from North Carolina to Maine and includes states east of Ohio) produced 25.8 % of apples in the United States (USDA-NASS, various years).  However, that region produced 42.2% of all apples processed over that same period.  On average, 54.3% of all apples grown in the northeastern U.S. were processed.  This compares to only 21.3% of the apple crop from the major producing states in the western United States.  Therefore, processing is a very important market strategy for apple producers in the northeastern U.S. region. 

 

            To collect data, we decided to conduct Internet surveys.  With nearly a majority of consumers having access to the Internet in 2008-2009 (over 70%; http://www.pewinternet.org/Trend-Data/Online-Activities-20002009.aspx) and 78% of adults reported using the Internet in May 2011 (http://www.pewinternet.org/Trend-Data/Whos-Online.aspx) we used this outlet to reach consumers in remote areas, screen for particular demographics and purchasing characteristics, and allow participants to respond to surveys when it is most convenient for them.

 

            During the summer of 2008 (16-22 July) we conducted the first study focusing on fresh apple and processed product purchasing and consumption and developed a survey that was administered to 507 consumers residing in metropolitan Philadelphia.  Participants were randomly selected from a list of consumers who signed up and agreed to participate in research conducted by companies, nonprofits, universities, and others, and managed by Survey Sampling International, LLC (Shelton, CT). 

 

Consumers were eligible to participate in our survey if they were at least 21 years old (as questions about alcohol products and consumption were asked) and if they were the primary shopper for their household.  

 

Who participated in the study?

Most common responses to demographic questions for the 507 panelists were female (72.3%), a member of a two-adult household (47.1%), living in a household with no children (64.6%), were age 49 to 64 (43.6%), had either obtained some level of high school education or were high school graduates, or had obtained some level of college/technical school education but had not graduated (50.4%), with a household income of $74,999 or lower (64.9%).

 

What did participants report purchasing?

Approximately three-quarters of participants (72.2% agreed that “during an average year, [they] purchase cut and packaged apples or products made with apples such as juices, baking mixes, sauces, and pastries.”  These participants were, as might be expected, more likely to agree with the statement that “purchasing fresh fruits that are cut, peeled, and ready to eat” is more appealing than purchasing fruits that need to be processed.

 

Participants were then asked to respond if they purchased processed apple products ranging from “baby food made with apples” to “beverages made with apples” in the last year.   Overall “apple sauce, apple jelly and jam, or apple butter,” “apple juice, apple tea, or non-alcoholic apple cider,” and “apple pastries and cakes or other bakery items made with apples” were categories of apples products that at least half of respondents indicated they had purchased (Table 1).

Table 1. Percent of participants who purchased each of the following value-added products 

Processed apple product

% Who purchased

Processed apple product

% Who purchased

Apple sauce, apple jelly and jam or apple butter

70.2

Apple juice, apple tea, or non-alcoholic apple cider

63.9

Apple pastries and cakes or other bakery items made with apples

50.9

Ready to eat snack products such as apple slices, dried apples, or apple crisps

26.6

Apple flavored oatmeal, apple toaster pastries, apple flavored cereal, or other breakfast foods made with apples

29.4

Apple fruit leather, apple fruit candies, or snack bars made with apples

19.7

Apple vinegar

17.9

Carmel apple flavored popcorn, apple flavored granola, or apple flavored cookies

13.8

Apple wine, hard apple cider, apple brandy, or other alcoholic beverages made with apples

10.7

Canned apple slices or canned apples

9.1

Frozen apples, frozen pie filling, or other frozen apple products

9.1

Baby food made with apples

5.3

 

 

Fresh apple purchasers interest in processed apple products

            Would past fresh apple purchases encourage consumers to purchase processed apple products?  If so, perhaps there are opportunities to cross-promote the two categories and encourage increased purchasing of both fresh fruit and related processed products.  An overwhelming 95.7% of participants indicated that they purchased fresh apples with slightly over half (54.8%) responding that during the months of August through December they “primarily purchase fresh apples from farmers markets, on-farm markets, or through a CSA subscription.” 

            Consumers who purchased fresh apples and those who primarily purchased the fruit from direct marketing sources were more likely to have purchased processed apple products than their counterparts, specifically, “ready-to-eat snacks,” “apple juice, teas, or non-alcoholic apple cider,” “frozen apple products,” “apple vinegar,” “apple fruit leather, fruit candies, or snack bars made with apples,” “breakfast foods made with apples,” and “bakery items made with apples.”

 

Influence on Purchasing New Processed Products

            Participants were presented with a list of factors and product characteristics and were asked to select the one that best represented what primarily influences them when purchasing “a new partially or completely processed food item.”  Of the factors and product characteristics presented, nearly a third selected “price of the item,” followed by “nutritional value of the item,” and “menu for the evening of the next day’s meal” (Table 2). 

 

Table 2. Factors that primarily influences participants to purchase a new partially or completely processed food item

Factor

Percent who selected the factor (%)

Factor

Percent who selected the factor (%)

Price of the item

 

28.1

 

Nutritional value of the item

17.1

Menu for the evening or next day's meal

15.4

Availability at the store where they primarily shop for groceries

9

Samples of item available to taste

6.1

Visual quality of the item

5.6

Item was made from locally-grown fruits and/or vegetables

4.9

Coupon placed by the item

4.2

Item was made from certified organic fruits and/or vegetables

2.4

Suggestion from family member or friend

2.4

Item was featured in an advertisement they received at their home

1.7

Signage or other in-store advertising

0.5

 

 About the data

             There is no denying the importance of apples and apple products in a consumer’s daily life. It is estimated that from 2000 to 2020 the per capita consumption of apples will increase by 7.8% (http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/aib792/aib792-7/aib792-7.pdf).  Whereas this and other data is primarily based on consumption on a national level, learning about consumption on a local or regional level and what influences purchasing can assist stakeholders with investigating potential products that further benefit their business.  Though data were collected in 2008, a search for resources that describe consumption of individual apple products reveals that information is either more dated or only reported for more commonly consumed items such as apple sauce.  Thus the data in this article adds to the information publically available. 

            The data presented in this article is just one aspect of our apple research.  We will continue to publish data from this study and others throughout the year, some of which we analyzed to determine who would likely buy the products based on demographics and their attitudes and purchasing behaviors.  As with any other product, stakeholders should consider how the data will work for their individual business, involve their consumers in the decision to develop and offer new products, and then trial the product to determine true demand.