posted on August 11, 2005 12:43
Departments of Horticulture, Landscape Architecture and Agricultural Economics
Whether a grower sells directly to consumers or chooses to use an intermediary, knowing something about the end consumer is important. Marketers use the principle of target marketing to help separate common characteristics and traits about groups of consumers or segments. Traditionally, there are three ways to segment a consumer: 1) demographics, 2) psychographics and 3) behavior. This article uses the three segmentation variables to create a profile of the average organic consumer.
Demographics are comprised of information such as age, gender, income, geography, race and ethnicity. In the past, the organic consumer had been characterized as a married suburban housewife in her 30s or 40s with children, a college degree, liberal leanings and above average spending power (Kitty, 2004). Today, the produce organic consumer can be defined demographically as 18-39, Caucasian, male, college-educated, parent of young children, and predominately a resident of the Western half of the United States (The Packer, 2005). Reports have also shown H ispanic consumers are significantly more interested in natural and organic products (National Marketing Institute, 2003). Although demographics are one way to identify potential customers, recent reports suggest demographics are less of a factor in segmenting and targeting organic consumers than psychographics and behavior variables. The accompanying table serves as an example of a demographic profile of selected organic consumers.
Psychographics refer to the attitudes, interests or opinions of the customer in question. In other words, psychographics show consumer motivation or drivers of behavior such as why people buy brand names such as Coke verses private label such as Kroger Cola. Values comprise an important part of the decision-making process within organic consumption. Some researchers think increasing values and opinions from sources such as Consumer Reports help frame opinions and attitudes about organic products. The Consumer Reports’ findings of pesticide contamination in conventionally grown produce, a growing concern about the use of rBGH (growth hormone) in milk production and an increasing awareness of genetically modified crops may have contributed to attitudes toward organic and may help to differentiate why some consumers choose organics over conventional food (Food Processing Center, 2001). For example, a University of California – Davis study showed there were significant differences in the attitudes and opinions of organic consumers. Purchasers of organic products highly value attributes such as safety, the environmental impacts of agricultural production practices, general health and nutrition impacts, freshness and flavor. This means as a grower or business positions their products to consumers, advertising or conversational points that help to draw consumers to organic products should focus on safety, nutrition and sustainability.
Other sources have also confirmed values and attitudes are important to organic consumption. According to Katherine DiMatteo, executive director of the Organic Trade Association (OTA), values of the organic consumer are focused on concerns about food products and agriculture methods and individuals concerned around personal health of themselves and their families. Key phrases for the motivated organic consumer include nutritionally savvy, environmentally conscious and health-focused. The Harman Group, a marketing research firm based out of Washington, states the motivations for organic purchases include health and nutrition, taste, and food safety.
Behavior is the last segmentation variable that refers to frequency of use of a particular product. The National Marketing Institute states there are approximately 43% of Americans that can be classified into organic users (Organic Trade Association, 2001). Of these, 6.3% are core users and have used organic products for more than three years and at least once per week. Heavy users comprise 4.7% and use organic products once or more a day. (To gather the demographics of behavioral core and heavy organic users, please refer to the Organic Consumer Trends Report. Approximate costs are $1,000.) Although little information is available on usage, growers that use direct marketing can ask customers directly how often their customers use organic products or can count how many times consumers come back for organic products. Growers that use intermediaries can talk to retailers or read articles that may provide this information.
Food Processing Center, University of Nebraska – Lincoln. 2001. “Attracting Consumers with Locally Grown Foods” http://www.foodmap.unl.edu/report_files/Locally_Grown_Consumer_Survey_Report.pdf
Jolly, Desmond A. 1987. Consumer Profiles of Buyers and Non-Buyers
of Organic Produce” http://www.sfc.ucdavis.edu/research/profiles.html
Kitty, Kevin. 2004. “Desperately Seeking: Organic Consumer” http://www.fmi.org/advantage/issues/052004/pdfs/pub/organicconsumer.pdf
Organic Trade Association, Consumer Profile Facts, http://www.ota.com/organic/mt/consumer.html
Organic Trade Association, Organic Consumer Trends 2001 http://www.nmisolutions.com/press052401.html
The Packer Fresh Trends 2005. “Whole Foods Organic Trend Tracker” http://www.thepacker.com/thePacker/Packer-about.asp
Natural Marketing Institute, 2003. “ Hispanic Health and Wellness Opportunities Report”