Fruit & Vegetable Magazine

Features Fruit Production
Consumers willing to pay more for local apples


September 27, 2010
By Fruit & Vegetable

Topics

September 24, 2010,
Burlington, VT – A 2008 study found that organic apples represented 4.6 per
cent of total apple sales in the United States, up from 3.5 per cent in 2007.
In Vermont, apples have been the most important fruit crop for many years,
playing an important role in the state’s economy – so important, in fact, that
apples were named the state’s official fruit in 1999. Vermont apple growers,
facing a host of challenges, such as increasing production costs and
intensifying competition from imported apples, are looking for ways to succeed
in the emerging organic food market.

September 24, 2010,
Burlington, VT – A 2008 study found that organic apples represented 4.6 per
cent of total apple sales in the United States, up from 3.5 per cent in 2007.
In Vermont, apples have been the most important fruit crop for many years,
playing an important role in the state’s economy – so important, in fact, that
apples were named the state’s official fruit in 1999. Vermont apple growers,
facing a host of challenges, such as increasing production costs and
intensifying competition from imported apples, are looking for ways to succeed
in the emerging organic food market.

Qingbin Wang and Robert
Parsons from the University of Vermont’s Department of Community Development
and Applied Economics
and Junjie Sun from the U.S. Department of the Treasury
collaborated on a research study to assess consumer valuation of major apple
attributes, especially locally grown and organic, and to examine the
differences in preferences between consumers who had purchased organic food and
consumers who had not. The study, published in a recent issue of HortScience,
contains practical information that may help guide apple production and
marketing decisions.

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Of the nearly 64 per cent
of the survey respondents who said they had purchased organic food, the average
household expenditure on organic food was $69.30, or 19.9 per cent of their
average monthly food expense.

“This data suggests that
Vermont is likely one of the leading states in organic food consumption in the
country,” noted the team.

Data also indicated that
most organic food consumers purchased their organic products from supermarkets
(66.9 per cent), farmers’ markets (51.9 per cent), natural food stores (50.2
per cent) and food cooperatives (44 per cent) – information that may be
encouraging for small producers who are not able to sell their products through
supermarkets because of quantity and other restrictions.

The research found
“significant differences in preferences” between respondents who had purchased
organic food and respondents who had not purchased organic food, but both
groups showed a strong preference for local (Vermont) apples compared with
apples from other regions. The survey results also indicated that many
consumers, especially people who had purchased organic food, are willing to pay
significantly more for organic apples produced locally and certified by the
Northeast Organic Farming Association.

“This is important
information for both organic and conventional apple growers in Vermont, showing
that if they market their apples as Vermont-grown, they may be able to sell
them at higher prices,” concluded the scientists.