University Of Florida Research Shows Consumers Value Local And Organic When Buying Fruit-Producing Plants

Tropical Fruit Tree Selection (Hopkins Tropical Fruit Nursery)Consumers in the market for a fruit-producing plant are more likely to buy one if it’s locally grown or organic, according to new research from the University of Florida (UF).

Limited availability of organically produced edible plants has created markets for these plants, according to a new Extension document co-authored by Assistant Professor Hayk Khachatryan and Post-doctoral Researcher Alicia Rihn at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

As part of a larger study, Khachatryan and Rihn polled 95 Floridians to investigate the effects of plant type, price, production method, and origin on consumer preferences for fruit-producing plants. They asked participants to look at images of fruit-producing plants with different attributes and rate them on a scale, with 1 being very unlikely and 7 being very likely to purchase.

The researchers found the participants preferred to buy pineapple and blueberry plants more than kiwi vines. Furthermore, compared to conventional plants, consumers reported a higher purchasing likelihood for certified organic or organically produced fruit plants. But consumers were less likely to buy imported plants than domestic ones.

While they were looking over the images of the plants, participants’ eye movements were recorded using eye tracking equipment, measuring how long they kept their eyes fixed on specific plant attributes.

The gaze test showed participants wanted to buy plants labeled organic. If they fixated on price, they were less apt to buy the plant. If they saw a logo such as “Fresh from Florida” — used by the Florida Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services — they were more likely to buy the plant.

“Results indicate that growers and retailers should leverage consumer interest in the state economy and buy their plants from area growers when selling to Florida consumers,” Khachatryan says

Khachatryan and Rihn work at the UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka, Florida.

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