On Sustainability: No Two Consumers Are Alike

On Sustainability: No Two Consumers Are Alike

Savvy marketers rely on the principles of customer segmentation and product targeting to more efficiently allocate scarce resources and effectively reach groups of consumers with similar preferences or demands. It would appear as though many people have jumped on the eco-train, but to what extent have people who purchased plants, many of them gardeners, adopted eco-practices like recycling and composting? Previous research shows some consumers are willing to pay a premium price for green products and share attitudes that are favorable toward the environment.

Premium-priced products are assumed to be more profitable, and often are. Still, relatively little is known about gardeners and their ecological attitudes, practices or behaviors. Our objective was to identify and profile consumer segments with regard to their gardening purchases. Are gardeners more eco-friendly? We sought to determine whether there were differences in their eco-friendly attitudes and behaviors, such as recycling. Our underlying belief was that some types of gardeners may be more active in their environmentally-friendly behavior, predisposing them to be more receptive to product innovations specifically designed to be eco-friendly.

Consumer Demographics

Our research team developed an online survey and collected data in July 2009 using Knowledge Network’s Web-enabled KnowledgePanel. This is a probability-based consumer panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The survey was administered through the Internet accessing a sample of 300 KnowledgePanel consumers from Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Texas. Questions on the survey focused on the types of ornamental plant purchases made by consumers, recycling behaviors, preferences for various types of plant container materials and demographic characteristics.

Responses were collected from 1,113 consumers, but only 763 were complete and useful. Nearly one quarter of the participants were from each state participating in the study: Indiana (24.4 percent), Michigan (27.2 percent), Minnesota (24.7 percent) and Texas (23.7 percent). Participants ranged in age from 18 to 92 years with an average age of 47.2 years old. More than half (52.3 percent) were married, 22.7 percent were never married and 11.5 percent were divorced. More than one-third (36.5 percent) of participants had completed only high school and an additional 24.1 percent had completed some college; an additional 15 percent had completed college and 7.6 percent had completed education beyond a bachelor’s degree. Nearly 80 percent of the participants were Caucasian, 8.5 percent were African-American, 7.8 percent were Hispanic and 4.5 percent were two or more races or from another ethnic background.

Slightly more than 80 percent lived within the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) classification, which is considered urban and suburban, and 19.4 percent were from outside those regions, which could be considered rural. About 80 percent owned their home and 79.7 percent lived in a one-family detached residence. Participant household income was distributed among the 19 categories (with $2,500 to $10,000 increments), with the median in the $60,000 to $74,999 category (12.4 percent). No category had less than 1.7 percent of the participants included in it. Slightly more than 70 percent of the participants had Internet access. So, study participants generally exhibited characteristics reflective of the United States on average.

Results

Within the entire sample, 54.8 percent of the participants purchased annuals, 45.3 percent purchased perennials, 43.5 percent had purchased vegetables or herbs, 19.2 percent had purchased flowering shrubs, 12.3 percent had purchased trees and 24.5 percent had purchased indoor flowering plants. These were similar to a 2006 National Gardening Association survey that showed 33 percent of Americans participated in flower gardening, 30 percent participated in landscaping and 22 percent participated in vegetable gardening.

Of those buying flowering annuals, 10.9 percent were first-time buyers of annual plants. For perennials, 4.7 percent were first-time buyers. Among herb and vegetable purchasers, 5.1 percent were first-time buyers, but only 2.8 percent of flowering shrub buyers were first-time purchasers of those plants and 3.6 percent of tree purchasers were first-time buyers. Among indoor flowering plant purchasers, 2.7 percent were first-time purchasers.

Given the recent anecdotal evidence that sales of edibles have increased, we were curious whether a substantial percentage of new or first-time purchasers might be identified, but this was not the case. There were more first-time annual plant purchasers than herb or vegetable buyers.

We then clustered participants into three groups (Figure 1, page 42) based on their purchase history of five outdoor plant categories: flowering annuals, perennials, herbs and vegetables, flowering shrubs and trees. The first consumer segment to emerge was named “Low Use.” This group was characterized by a low percentage (more than 25 percent) of its members (n=341) buying perennials, herbs or vegetables, flowering shrubs and trees. No members of this group purchased flowering annual plants.

The second segment to emerge (n=127) was labeled “Woody Plant Buyers” because a high percentage of this group had bought flowering shrubs and trees (evergreen or deciduous). This segment had a moderate percentage of individuals who had purchased flowering annual plants, perennial plants, herbs or vegetables and indoor flowering plants.

The third segment to emerge was labeled “Herbaceous Plant Buyers” because a high percentage of this group (n=295) had bought flowering annual plants, perennial plants, indoor flowering plants and herbs or vegetables. None of the Herbaceous Plant Buyers had purchased any flowering shrubs.

We saw some differences in the number of shopping trips made and the dollar amount members of these groups spent on plants and gardening in the year before the survey. A greater percentage of Low Use members (34.9 percent) and Herbaceous Plant members (38.0 percent) spent $1 to $100 on gardening products compared to Woody Plant members (10.4 percent), but a higher percentage of Woody Plant members (6.9 percent) and Herbaceous Plant members (6.8 percent) spent more than $100 on gardening products compared to Low Use members (3.0 percent). Woody Plant members made the most number of trips to a store, which resulted in a plant purchase (7.4) compared to Herbaceous Plant members (4.6) and Low Use members (3.0).

Analysis

Demographically, the groups differed on most characteristics. Both Woody Plant Buyers and Herbaceous Plant Buyers had a higher percentage of women than men, which was not the case for the Low Use consumers who were predominantly male. Average age of Woody Plant Buyers was higher than Herbaceous Plant Buyers and both were higher than the mean age of consumers in the Low Use segment. Herbaceous Plant Buyers had achieved a higher level of education than Low Use or Woody Plant cluster members.

Also consistent with a 2009 study Jennifer Dennis and Bridget Behe conducted was the high percentage of Caucasians, married individuals and homeowners in the Herbaceous Plant and Woody Plant buyer segments relative to the Low Use segment. There were no differences among the segment members with regard to the metropolitan statistical area (MSA) status or access to the Internet.

While attitudes were relatively similar, some eco-behaviors did vary between the segments (Figure 2). Researchers asked two questions about the purchase and disposal of beverage containers: water bottles and aluminum cans. We were interested to learn whether the percentage of each segment that purchased and recycled these beverage containers or simply did not purchase them was similar; either could be construed as an eco-friendly decision. Our thought was that if the product was purchased and waste handled in an eco-friendly manner, the segment members may be more responsive to eco-marketing, packaging or other messages consistent with their eco-behaviors.

Only one state (Michigan) had a mandatory recycling of aluminum cans, for which a deposit is paid on the can when it is purchased. More of the Low Use segment did not purchase aluminum drinking cans or bottled water compared to Herbaceous Plant and Woody Plant consumers. Fewer Woody Plant buyers always recycled aluminum drinking cans compared to Herbaceous Plant and Low Use buyers. But we found no differences in the purchase and recycling of bottled water bottles.

There were differences between the three groups with regard to the purchase and recycling of newspapers and magazines. More Low Use consumers did not purchase newspapers and magazines compared to Woody Plant and Herbaceous Plant buyers, but more Low Use consumers also never recycled them. However, a higher percentage of Herbaceous Plant buyers always recycled both newspapers and magazines compared to the other two groups.

Composting is a form of recycling and researchers asked study participants about their recycling of food and yard waste. A low percentage of the three groups always composted food waste, but a higher percentage of Low Use and Herbaceous Plant consumers never composted food waste. We expected a higher percentage of the Low Use consumer group would have no yard waste, but we were surprised to see the similarly high percentage of Low Use and Herbaceous Plant consumers to never compost yard waste.

We asked participants several questions to assess their attitudes about recycling and buying products made from recycled products. Of the six questions asked, only one difference emerged. A lower percentage of Woody Plant buyers agreed or strongly agreed (10.5 percent) with the statement “Sorting household waste for recycling is too much of an inconvenience” compared to Low Use (23.8 percent) and Herbaceous Plant buyers (25.0 percent). There were no differences in the percentage of consumers that agreed or strongly agreed with these five statements: 1) When purchasing products, I check to see whether the package is made from recycled material; 2) A carbon intensive footprint for a product means it takes a lot of energy to manufacture or ship the product; 3) I refuse to buy products from companies that are not environmentally friendly; 4) Recycling plastic plant pots is of more importance than using compostable containers; and 5) When buying products, I check to see whether the package is recyclable.

Despite similar attitudes and having been exposed to the concept of sustainability, the two plant purchase segments appeared to engage in more eco-friendly behaviors more than the Low Use segment. In a 2010 article, we showed that the consumers had different preferences for plant containers, finding that the single-most important factor influencing the consumer buying decision was container type, followed by price, carbon footprint and waste composition, respectively.

Coupled with the results from this study, green industry participants now have a better understanding of the diversity of consumers to which they market products. Eco-behaviors may be a more effective means of reaching or connecting with consumers who have a greater propensity to purchase eco-friendly products or those made using eco-friendly practices.

Topics:

Leave a Reply

More From Marketing...
crider-rd2-internal_Rough-Brothers_featured

July 1, 2015

Rough Brothers Is Acquired By Gibraltar Industries

RBI Solar Inc., Rough Brothers Manufacturing Inc. and affiliates have been acquired by Gibraltar Industries, a manufacturer and distributor of products for residential and industrial markets, for $130 million. Capitalizing on its 80 years of design-build experience and leadership as the largest greenhouse manufacturer in North America, Ohio-based RBI has established itself during the past five years as North America’s fastest-growing provider of photovoltaic (PV) solar racking solutions. The transaction will enable Gibraltar to leverage its expertise in structural metals manufacturing and materials sourcing to meet global demand for solar racking solutions. The company also announced that it anticipates its second-quarter 2015 financial results will be in line with its previous expectations. “Acquiring RBI is an important step in the transformation of Gibraltar into a company with a higher rate of growth and best-in-class financial metrics,” says Gibraltar CEO Frank Heard. “This acquisition directly aligns with key end markets and product platforms […]

Read More

June 30, 2015

Opportunities Abound For Women In Horticulture, Says Dosatron International’s Lela Kelly

My love for horticulture goes back to my grandparents who were farmers in upstate New York. My family’s involvement in agriculture left a lasting impression that has spanned decades, and still drives my passion for our industry today. I started my career in horticulture when I owned a greenhouse, nursery and garden center in Sayville, Long Island, N.Y. We specialized in ground cover production, later branching out to producing perennials and bedding plants.     I then went onto wholesale hard goods distribution. In the 1980s, I was the first woman salesperson on Long Island. What an eye opener that was! New York is a very special place, different from anywhere else in the country. You cannot imagine how difficult it was walking into greenhouses and nurseries as a woman, in a man’s world. Luckily, I grew up in New York City in an Italian family, who taught me great […]

Read More
Medal of Excellence Award

June 30, 2015

Get To Know The 9 Variety Finalists For Editor’s Choice And Industry’s Choice Awards

Greenhouse Grower‘s Evening Of Excellence reception is rapidly approaching. Here, you can learn more about the varieties that are finalists for the Medal Of Excellence Editor’s Choice and Industry’s Choice Breeding Awards. Thank you to the 2015 sponsors of Greenhouse Grower‘s Medal Of Excellence Awards, Landmark Plastic, Nufarm and Stockosorb. Editor’s Choice Asclepias ‘Monarch Promise’ (Hort Couture) Basil ‘Balsamic Blooms’ (EuroAmerican Propagators) Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ (Sakata Seed) Dianthus Jolt Series (PanAmerican Seed) Salvia Grandstand Series (Green Fuse Botanicals) Scabiosa ‘Kudos Pink’ (Hishtil Nurseries) Industry’s Choice Basil ‘Balsamic Blooms’ (EuroAmerican Propagators) Bidens BeeDance Series (Suntory Flowers) Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ (Sakata Seed) Dianthus Jolt Series (PanAmerican Seed) Lobelia ‘Starship Deep Rose’ (Kieft Seed) Vinca Valiant Series (PanAmerican Seed)     Join us Monday, July 13 in Ballroom 2 at the Columbus Convention Center to find out which varieties will receive the coveted awards. The reception begins at 5:15 p.m. and the ceremony […]

Read More
Latest Stories
Feature image The 2015 Perennial Plant Of The Year, Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo.’

June 27, 2015

Perennial Plant Association Wins The 2015 Excellence In…

With its emphasis on education and its Perennial Plant Of The Year program, the Perennial Plant Association boosted the popularity of perennials and helped make it the vital category it is.

Read More
baker creative

June 23, 2015

Baker Creative Wins International Award For Work With J…

Baker Creative, a local branding agency, was recently selected as a Gold Award winner for the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals’ 2015 Hermes Creative Awards. Baker Creative won in the Advertising/Direct Mail Piece category for creating a factory opening invitation mailer for Jiffy Group . Hermes Creative Awards is an international competition for creative professionals involved in the concept, writing and design of traditional and emerging media. The Hermes Gold Award is presented to those entries judged to exceed the high standards of the industry norm. Only 22 percent of the entrants received the award. “When Jiffy needed to make a splash to draw attention to the opening of its new substrate facility in West Bridgewater, Mass., we turned to Baker Creative. The video card created by Baker Creative assisted us greatly with getting the much needed attention when inviting professional growers to the official opening,” a Jiffy Group […]

Read More

June 17, 2015

Marketing Ideas You Want To See From 2015 California Sp…

Back when California Spring Trials (CAST) were still called Pack Trials, new plants were placed on growing benches in packs so attendees could see for themselves how uniformly the plants grow. It was practical and useful. Today, CAST is primarily about introducing new plants in a way that catches your imagination and convinces you that these plants are not only disease resistant, need almost no inputs, including plant growth regulators (PGRs) and have excellent timing, but also that they are plants consumers will fall in love with. In other words, marketing. Some of the breeders go a few steps further and pull together ideas and information that growers can use for their own businesses. It can be methods to connect better with their retail customers or even to help promote our industry and its great plants directly to the public. Here are some of the standouts from CAST 2015. Pacific […]

Read More
Medal of Excellence Award

June 10, 2015

Greenhouse Grower Announces 2015 Medal Of Excellence No…

On this page, everybody’s a winner, because we’re announcing Greenhouse Grower‘s 2015 Medal Of Excellence nominees for two of our three awards in breeding, the winners of our Medal Of Excellence for Industry Achievement and Excellence In Marketing awards and the winners of our Grower Of The Year program, who are finalists for Operation Of The Year and Head Grower Of The Year. All honors will be presented during Greenhouse Grower’s prestigious Evening Of Excellence on Monday, July 13, during Cultivate’15. We hope we will see you there! Correction: Lobelia ‘Starship Deep Rose’ was bred by Kieft Seed, not Darwin Perennials, as we mistakenly printed in the June 2015 issue. Medal Of Excellence Watch Benchrunner in the coming weeks to read profiles of our Industry Achievement and Excellence In Marketing award winners, and look for these articles in our July 2015 issue. Industry Achievement Award The Kientzler Group Excellence In Marketing Perennial […]

Read More
Double Whammy Merchandise Display At CAST2015

May 28, 2015

Grow Inspiration To Grow The Horticulture Industry

We need to work together as the horticulture industry to inspire and instruct consumers with our plant knowledge and marketing expertise.

Read More
Plant-Select_for-web

May 28, 2015

PlantSelect.org And FindPlants.net Assist Consumers Wit…

The recently launched PlantSelect.org and FindPlants.net websites offer growing and maintenance tips, where-to-buy information and design ideas to help consumers have success with growing and finding plants.

Read More
Four Star Greenhouse Proven Winner Plants At English Garden

May 26, 2015

Retailer To Grower: It’s Time To Offer Services To Loc…

Retailers wonder why mass merchants are the only ones to receive stocking, merchandising and plant care from growers.

Read More
New Guinea Impatiens

May 14, 2015

10 Tips To Improve Retail Shelf Life Of Bedding Plants

Good-looking plants at retail lead to stronger sales and less postharvest shrink. Try these 10 ideas for maintaining quality and keeping plants looking beautiful.

Read More
GrowIt! App Wins Gold At Design100 2014 US Mobile & App Design Awards

May 12, 2015

Suntory And GrowIt! Garden Socially Partner On A New Se…

Three different contests will run from May through early August. Garden center retailers can upload their own photos or encourage their customers to enter and win.

Read More

May 6, 2015

Orange Is The New Green: An Interview With Dümmen Orang…

The day the news came out about the name change of DNA Green Group to Dümmen Orange, and everything that meant for the large flower breeding conglomerate, Greenhouse Grower Editor Laura Drotleff talked with Dümmen Orange Operations Manager Kate Santos about what the identity shift would mean for the company, its customers and ultimately for consumers. What’s going to happen to the brands and what was behind the decision to do away with those brands and consolidate? A key objective for our organization in moving to one corporate brand is to continue to stay true to the heritage and history of the individual brands that have made us what we are today and what we will build the future of our company upon. For this reason, some of those brands that have a deep-rooted history and much more recognition within the market, will have a longer persistence in our overall […]

Read More

May 1, 2015

Restoration Landscapes: A Specialized Market For Nativ…

Restoration landscapes, depending on their purpose, often require straight native species, along with a confirmation of their known provenance. Research is key in this area and good recordkeeping is a must.

Read More
Dummen_Begonia_UnbelieveableFirstKiss

April 29, 2015

Dümmen Orange Is The New Name For DNA Green Group

DNA Green Group has a new name: Dümmen Orange. The company revealed its new name, logo and brand values at all of its facilities in 16 countries on Thursday, April 23. The well-known corporate brands Lex+, Bartels, Terra Nigra, Dümmen Group, Agribio China, Agribio Colombia, Oro, PLA, as well as the production locations, are changing their identities immediately to Dümmen Orange. Other established brands like Rijnplant, Ecke, Oglevee, Red Fox, Fides, Japan Agribio and Barberet & Blanc will convert over limited time. The company’s CEO Biense Visser calls it a logical next step. “All companies that have been acquired have a rich and successful history,” Visser says. “We have always tried to respect that heritage. Doing so, we created confusion for our customers. Our employees expressed a preference for a more uniform approach to the market, too. That is why we have chosen one large umbrella brand that embraces the entire product […]

Read More

April 15, 2015

Redesigned SunPatiens Website Offers New Tools For Saka…

Sakata Seed America's new and improved SunPatiens website launched March 1, 2015 and provides growing information, marketing support, product location and many more tools to encourage consumer success with SunPatiens.

Read More
Keenland

April 13, 2015

Proven Winners Partners With Award-Winning Designer Jon…

Proven Winners will partner with award-winning garden designer, author and fine living expert Jon Carloftis on a new series of four LIFE + STYLE events in 2015. In true Carloftis style, food and spirits will be paired with inspiring architecture and innovative garden designs featuring Proven Winners plants.

Read More

April 13, 2015

New Consumer Website Makes Buying Roses Easier

A new website has been created as a resource tool for gardeners who are looking for a rose that fits their needs. This website is 100% consumer focused and will inspire confidence and promote rose gardening to the next generation of gardeners. Visitors will also find links to connect on social networks, such as Facebook and Pinterest. The website promotes roses, not specific brands, and that is what makes it unique.

Read More
Rose rosette on Knockout rose, April 2012. Photo credit: Alan Windham, University of Tennessee

March 25, 2015

$58 Million In APHIS Farm Bill Funding Will Support Hor…

Nearly $58 million as been allocated by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to support the industry's Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program, under Farm Bill Section 10007. The program will support mitigation efforts for specialty crops, including providing research and other funding to address plant pest and disease priorities for the specialty crop industry, including floriculture and nursery crops.

Read More
National Floriculture Forum 2015 029

March 18, 2015

2015 National Floriculture Forum Focuses On Marketing I…

The 2015 National Floriculture Forum, held March 6 to 7 in Minneapolis, Minn., zeroed in on the topic of marketing in horticulture and included visits to Gertens Greenhouses and Garden Center, Bailey Nurseries, Bachman’s Floral, Home and Garden and Tangletown Gardens. The annual meeting allows greenhouse and floriculture faculty, graduate students and industry partners to meet and share updates on current research, issues and initiatives.

Read More

February 18, 2015

Range Of Nursery Inspections To Protect Patented Plants…

Plant patents are under protection, and breeders are fighting for their rights to keep growers from illegally propagating protected varieties. It's something you don't want to take a chance on, because the risk is far higher than the reward. More than 300 inspections were carried out last year from New York to British Columbia and from Ontario to Florida to protect plant patents, Plant Breeders’ Rights (PBR) and branded programs.

Read More