Increasing Consumer Acceptance of Baby Leafy Greens Grown in a Controlled Environment

Project Overview

GNE19-212
Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2019: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 07/31/2021
Grant Recipient: Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Region: Northeast
State: New Jersey
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Beverly Tepper
Rutgers University

Commodities

  • Vegetables: greens (leafy), greens (lettuces)

Practices

  • Crop Production: indoor farming
  • Farm Business Management: market study
  • Production Systems: hydroponics, organic agriculture, aeroponics
  • Sustainable Communities: urban agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    Controlled-Environment Agriculture is a powerful tool for growing safe, locally-produced, sustainable food. The controlled environment of the indoor-vertical farm is ideal for the year-round production of high-value specialty crops such as baby leafy greens. However, not all consumers have the same preferences for leafy greens, and vertical farm operators need to know what different groups of consumers want to meet this diverse demand. This project will model consumer preferences for a cross-section of baby leafy greens grown aeroponically in a commercial vertical farm. Data will be collected in three domains: 1) bitter taste sensitivity, which is a major driver of acceptance/rejection of leafy greens; 2) consumer attitudes to such factors as food variety, nutrition, and willingness to try new foods; and 3) standard demographics and personal habits such as gender, ethnicity and frequency of leafy green consumption. First, we will conduct a small scale (n=75) consumer study to select the factors that are most strongly associated with consumer preferences. This will be followed by a larger (n=300) consumer study that will model the preferences and purchase intent of different consumer sub-groups. The near-term goal of this project is to develop a framework for linking consumers to growers to maximize profitability and success. The long-term goal is to apply biotic and abiotic stresses, which can be tightly controlled in the indoor farm, to dial-up or dial-down the taste and flavor of leafy greens to ‘tailor’ them to a range of consumer preferences.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The overall goal of this project is to develop a comprehensive approach to model consumer acceptance and purchase intent of different varieties of baby leafy greens. This model will allow us to identify consumer segments that differ in their expectations and preferences for baby leafy greens. This knowledge will help CEA operators better understand their consumers and assist them in selecting what varieties to grow. The strategies developed in this research can be translated and used in a variety of controlled agriculture settings. This project consists of two parts: a pilot study (Phase I) and a large consumer study (Phase II). Phase I Researchers have attempted to understand the links between consumer acceptance of leafy greens and personal characteristics with limited success [13], potentially due to the complexity of consumer behavior. Previous studies have generally examined only one or two domains in isolation to predict this multi-dimensional behavior.

    The objectives of Phase 1 are:

    1.To pilot test the use of questionnaires and methods that are most strongly related to consumer acceptance of different varieties of baby leafy greens across the three domains of interest; taste, demographics and personality/attitudes.

    2.To identify and select the best questionnaires and sub-scales for use in Phase II. This step is critical to the success of Phase II as the administration of a large battery of questionnaires is not feasible in large consumer studies. Phase II It is well-known that individual consumers have different food preferences [4, 15]; these differences create a need to identify sub-groups of consumers who prefer different varieties of leafy greens. Under Phase II, we will conduct a large-scale consumer study in a community setting.

    The objectives for Phase II are:

    1.To utilize selected questionnaires and methods identified in Phase I to assess consumer liking of different varieties of baby leafy greens.

    2.To apply multi-variate statistics to model consumer liking and purchase intent of baby leafy greens and identify consumer segments.

     
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.