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Study: consumers curious about food producers, production

A new study indicates consumers think favorably of farmers, but they have questions about how food is produced. The study, referred to as SegmenTrak, was done by Demeter Communications. Demeter Senior Partner Claudine Wargel, who is based in Clinton, Illinois, says the survey explores what consumers want to know from farmers about food production.

“They have a real interest in knowing the potential impact of this on the end product from a health standpoint,” said Wargel, during an interview with Brownfield.

Demeter polled what Wargel calls indicator consumers, those likely to adapt perceptions ahead of the general public. Questions were asked in the survey about connecting on-farm practices with food safety.

The survey also explored how people react to terminology used to describe food production. For instance, says Wargel, words such as ‘industry’ are not well perceived. And the term ‘traditional farming’ is perceived more favorably than ‘contemporary farming’. It shows that in the discussion of agriculture, every word selected is important, says Wargel.

“Consumers are forming opinions really on an hourly basis as they are exposed to information from news reports and from their neighbors,” she says. “When we get involved in [discussing food production] we need to use the right language to help them understand what we do.”

More than three-quarters of respondents want to know more about measures used to produce safe food and more than two-thirds want to know how producers ensure animal care.

Respondents were males and females aged 23-55 from a cross-section of ethnic backgrounds.

Producers should consider shifting their communications from a defensive position to proactively talking to consumers about how their food is produced, says Wargel.

“The more we understand about consumers,” she says, “the more we can really get involved in those discussions and help lead them and interject factual and meaningful information.”

AUDIO: Claudine Wargel (14 min. MP3)

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