2019 Educational Micro Sessions

Thursday : 11:00am – 4:30pm
Jacob Javits Center Hall 1C – Educational Micro-Session Stage

11:00 am – 11:45 am

Dissonant Opinions and the Home Bias: Produce Implications and Lessons Learned From the Wine Industry

Brad Rickard

Associate Professor
Ruth and William Morgan Associate Professor
Applied Economics and Management
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

Aaron Adalja

Assistant Professor of Food and Beverage Management
School of Hotel Administration
SC Johnson College of Business
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

The way consumers make decisions about purchases is complicated in markets that include a wide variety of choices and credence, or non-observable attributes. In the age of the Internet and social media, a substantial amount of information is made available to consumers — objective with facts and details or subjective based on opinions.

We see a rise in the dissemination of non-expert opinions from peers or crowd-sourced reviews in many markets. Such reviews can be very influential and have the capacity to increase or decrease demand for credence products. This has been particularly true in the wine market, making it an ideal case study. This session will present the key findings and analyze the implications applicable to the fresh produce industry.

How are home and foreign biases impacted by relative peer opinions? Do we expect that more “local” consumers will react differently to crowd-sourced reviews when they are relatively positive and/or negative? The lab experiment tests 500 participants’ willingness to pay for products in a bidding process when exposed to multiple information and peer review treatments. It delves into the relative importance of cross-product reviews, and the various effects of crowd-sourced reviews for domestic product closer to home.

Is there a home bias upwards or downwards from the peer opinion on the local/domestic product, and what are the takeaways for the produce industry.

11:45 am – 12:30 pm

Controlled Environment Agriculture: A Tool to Understand Flavor Profiles and Consumer Demand for Baby Leafy Greens

Regina O’Brien

Ph.D. Student, Department of Food Science
Teaching Assistant
Division of Life Sciences
Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey

Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) is a powerful method for sustainably growing specialty crops such as baby leafy greens. Crops grown with aeroponics and other controlled methods can be locally-sourced and available year-round in areas with limited sunlight, water, soil, or space to grow crops traditionally. Advances in technology including LED lighting, climate control systems, and machine learning have recently made CEA an economically feasible business venture.

But new methods bring new challenges – particularly how CEA operators should optimize the growing environment for a consistently deliverable, high quality product that also meets consumer demand. Since consumers may have different individual needs and expectations, understanding the complexity of consumer preference is critical to the success of this industry. Sensory testing is a valuable tool to determine the unique aroma and flavor profiles of different foods. In this talk we will highlight the use of sensory testing to characterize several varieties of baby leafy greens grown with CEA and match these profiles to distinct consumer segments.

12:30 pm – 1:15 pm

How Consumer Messaging on GMO’s, CRISPR, Organic, and Pesticides Impacts Purchasing Behavior

Ben Campbell

Associate Professor
Masters of Agribusiness (MAB) Coordinator
Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics
University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

Amid a plethora of disparate product messaging that influences produce shoppers’ perceptions and purchasing decisions, the industry confronts new federal and state labeling laws. Campbell’s latest research tests the effects of giving consumers fact-based information about GMOs, CRISPR technology, organics, and pesticides, and measures how this changes shoppers’ likelihood of purchasing different products.

The new research explores ‘perceived’ knowledge (accurate or not) and acceptance of different production methods. Results indicated if someone viewed pesticides as bad, providing a scientific explanation of why they were being used increased the participant’s likelihood to buy something produced with pesticides. However, it also decreased the participant’s likelihood to buy organic.

What happens when GMOs or CRISPR information is introduced? How challenging is it to budge people’s diehard views on the endpoints, or significantly nudge those in the middle? Given the cross effects, produce suppliers and retailers need to be careful that promoting one message does not detrimentally impact another production method used.

1:15 pm – 2:30 pm

What Are the Overall Implications of Rising Organic Demand for Fruit and Vegetable Consumption?

John Bovay

Assistant Professor
Agricultural and Applied Economics
Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia

U.S. consumers eat less fruits and vegetables than recommended by dietary guidelines. Inadequate produce consumption exists alongside rapid growth in demand for organic produce. Since organic and conventional produce are linked in production, rising purchases of organic produce may have important implications for prices and quantities consumed in the conventional produce market.

In this presentation, we analyze the implications of rising demand for organic produce. More specifically, we use a “multi-market equilibrium displacement model” to examine the impact of rising demand for organic produce on prices and quantities consumed of produce under two scenarios. In the first scenario, we assume that all consumers have identical preferences that can be represented by a single market demand function for each good. In the second scenario, we allow for two types of consumers with unique demand functions.

The differing sets of assumptions lead to different conclusions about the implications of changes in demand or changes in policies. Our simulation results indicate that the increasing demand for organic produce may lead to decreasing consumption of produce overall, and that changes in produce intake vary by consumer segment.

2:30 pm – 3:15 pm

Generation Z and Fresh Mango Usage

John L. Stanton, Ph.D.

Chairman and Professor of Food Marketing
Founder and Editor
Journal of Food Product Marketing (retired)
St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

In what promises to be a dynamic, interactive session, Dr. Stanton will share his targeted consumer research to increase U.S. fresh mango consumption by capturing the category’s elusive consumer segment of Gen Z’s and younger generations.

Mango consumption around the world is going up much faster than in the US. “We have to figure out what issues Millennials and Gen Z’s have with fresh mangos that stops them from purchasing them in the produce department,” says Stanton, arguing the importance of winning over this segment for the future success of the mango industry in the US.

In focus groups and online surveys, this population group in fact liked the taste of mango, but the biggest use was the frozen mango they put in smoothies.  For the purpose of this study, the research concentrated on input from young non-Hispanic, Caucasian consumers averaging age 20-25, and was not meant to be representative of the whole market.

To market product in Hispanic grocery stores would involve an entirely different marketing program and strategy.  The research found 10 obstacles for the mango industry to overcome. The focus group didn’t even know what a mango looked like, that there were different varieties, or how to select, cut, clean and prepare mangos. Overall, strategy recommendations encompass a major need for education, targeted marketing as well as convenience product options.

3:15 pm – 4:30 pm

Signaling Impacts of Mandatory GMO Labeling on Fruit and Vegetable Demand

Miguel Gómez

Associate Professor
Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management 
Cornell University  Ithaca, New York
Faculty Fellow
David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future
Cornell University Affiliate Faculty
School of Management
Universidad de Los Andes, Bogota

Adeline Yeh

PhD Student in Applied Economics and Management
Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

GMO foods will require mandatory labels starting January 2020. What will this mean for the produce industry? This not-to-be-missed session will unveil findings of this newly published research. The study evaluates the signaling role of GM and non-GM labeling on fresh produce, and specifically analyzes the signaling impacts of GM labeling on the demand for other products on the market.

Does the non-GM label stigmatize other products, creating a “halo” effect? What are the potential impacts and benefits of introducing GM labels store-wide on the produce department? A “choice” experiment with over 1,300 consumers focused on GM text labeling for fresh strawberries, apples and potatoes in the U.S. The results are enlightening, indicating non-GM labeling does not negatively impact demand for related conventional products, while consumer demand for unlabeled products jumps with the introduction of GM labels.

Results show food labels can be more than just an identifier of product attributes, but also a signal influencing consumer preferences for alternative products on the market.  Limitations to this study that have spurred extended research also will be discussed.