We at Purdue University are proud to have partnered with Indiana Grown to receive a grant through the USDA’s Federal State Marketing Improvement Program to study the economic impacts of the program for agricultural producers and agricultural supply chains in Indiana. Here at Consumer Corner, our team’s component of this project was to develop a broad understanding of how Indiana residents perceive Indiana agricultural products, what they seek out in their own shopping trips and ultimately to understand consumer demand for Indiana Grown products. This project has benefited from the involvement of a number of student researchers, including Mario Ortez (PhD student in Purdue Agricultural Economics), Taylor Thompson (MS student in Purdue Agricultural Economics) and Benjamin Ellman (BA student in Economics at Vanderbilt University; Summer research intern in Purdue Agricultural Economics). I’m thrilled to be able to spotlight some of the preliminary findings being uncovered during our ongoing analyses.
~ Dr. Nicole Widmar

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Which Local Products Resonate Most with Indiana Consumers?

June 14, 2021 | Letters
Author: Taylor Thompson, MS Student, Purdue University Department of Agricultural Economics

Taylor Thompson on horseback in a fieldAbout Taylor

I am from Columbia, Tennessee, which is located in the southern middle portion of the state. Agriculture has played a fundamental role in my family for generations, and work and experience in production agriculture have laid a solid foundation for me in the industry. An understanding of the importance of agriculture is what ultimately drew me to studying agricultural economics. I majored in food and agricultural business from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. While working on my undergraduate degree, I was fortunate to work for the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture on several research projects related to corn production, beef management and beef reproduction. I look forward to assisting Purdue Agricultural Economics in further researching consumer/producer relations in modern agriculture. For further conversation, feel to reach out via Twitter at @tay_thompson1 or by email at thomp847@purdue.edu.

Lately — especially given the ongoing debates about national food supply chains during COVID-19 — there’s much ado about local production and processing, adding to the already rich and varied literature about local foods. We seemingly love local foods, yet simultaneously cry NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) as soon as there are negative externalities of local production in the ultimate example of the production paradox…What’s that smell?

How important is purchasing local products to Indiana residents? Our recent study asked participants to agree or disagree with statements involving food purchases. The statements involved specific products a consumer might encounter alongside stated preferences and values. Data was collected in April of 2021, and 484 completed responses were obtained. The sample was targeted to be representative of the Indiana population in terms of sex, age, income and region of the state among the 12 designated Indiana Economic Development Regions.

Respondents were given the option to select “Does not apply” or “I do not buy this product at all” in response to the seven statements studied. Responses excluding those who self-selected “Does not apply” or “I do not buy this product at all” were analyzed and are presented below.

Survey asking participants how much they agree or disagree with a variety of statements related to Indiana products

Starting generally, participants had the option of selecting whether or not they cared where their food came from. Only 15% of responses reflected that these individuals ‘completely agreed’ that they don’t care where their food comes from. The majority, 49%, were neutral on the matter. Seventy-four percent of respondents who selected a level of agreement with the statement “I prefer sweet corn grown in Indiana” ‘completely agreed’ that they prefer sweet corn grown in Indiana, while 55% preferred watermelon grown in Indiana. Wine produced in Indiana and wine produced from grapes in Indiana were both less preferred at 34% and 26%, respectfully than sweet corn and watermelon. Notably, the sample size analyzed for wine and grapes was significantly smaller (n=331 and 334) than corn (n=455) and watermelon (n=439), indicating fewer of our respondents were active consumers of those products.

There are a few things we can take from these preliminary results. For one, it seems as though participants, to an extent, care about products grown in Indiana. It also seems that participants in this study are familiar with popular Indiana products. Indiana is well known for corn production, generally speaking, and is 6th in watermelon production. Overall, preliminary findings suggest Indiana residents have some understanding of the state’s agricultural layout. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean we all consistently do extensive research on food purchases. Perhaps identifying products like corn in the store and local fields or remembering a friend talking about a local pick-your-own produce is reflected in reported preferences? We’re continuing our analysis and diving deeper into the data to understand more about what local products people want and attempting to shed some light on the reasons why…