New research explores food consumer decision making

New research is helping food producers reach consumers.

Charlie Arnot with the Center for Food Integrity tells Brownfield they have used a technique called digital ethnography to identify different groups of consumers, and how each defines truth.  “The Scientific, The Philosopher, The Follower, The Wishful Thinker, and The Existentialist.  And really, as you think about the distribution of those, The Follower is the largest segment in terms of the population that we really want to try to get to.  They’re the ones that are still willing to consider new information, and what they’re really looking for is clear guidance, tell me what to do or what I should think about a particular topic, help me understand that that information is coming from someone who is like me, shares my values, someone that I can relate to.”

Arnot says followers are the largest group, but philosophers are the most influential because the followers are afraid of making a bad decision.  He says it’s important for farmers and the food industry to communicate to them with values they share or can relate to.  “If we can help them understand that farmers care about doing what’s right, and we’re willing to give them very specific recommendations on here is the role that dairy plays in your life, and here’s the reason you don’t need to be concerned about animal care, the environment, whatever the other issue is, that can really help in building your trust in who we are and what we do.”

And, he says the research revealed some good news for farmers.  “People like farmers.  They’re not sure they’re comfortable with farming, but they still like farmers so having farmers  being able to tell that story, to be able to connect with consumers to talk about their values, their willingness to do what’s right, to provide specific guidance when it’s necessary, will really help continue to reinforce that farmers are doing the right thing.”

Arnot says every computer click people make on websites and social media is tracked, and this research observed the actual behavior of nearly 85-hundred consumers.

Charlie Arnot spoke during the Professional Dairy Producers Food and Policy Summit in Madison, Wisconsin.

Brownfield’s Larry Lee talks to Charlie Arnot about the new research.


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