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Home HortTechnology Latino Consumers Willingness to Buy New Ethnic Produce
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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—The growing ethnic population in the United States is changing the way produce wholesalers and retailers provide fresh products in markets. Research into consumer preferences and "willingness to buy" is important as ethnic demographic profiles change; data can report on buying trends and help fresh produce marketers and commercial growers alter or add to their selection of crops to respond to changes in consumer demand.

According to Ramu Govindasamy, Associate Professor in the of Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics at Rutgers University, the growing Latino population in the Eastern U.S. has created a need for more information about Latinos' food preferences. Govindasamy and colleagues Venkata Puduri and James Simon reported on a study of produce buying habits in HortTechnology. The research was designed to predict willingness to buy ethnic produce recently introduced or new to market, focusing on consumers from Mexico and Puerto Rico.

The researchers defined ethnic markets as "those consisting of specialty products and services that target specific ethnic community within a society and satisfy their needs on the basis of tradition and sociocultural values." Products can include specialty foods, fruit, vegetables, and herbs that are not traditionally grown or sold in the mainstream markets, but are imported and are currently grown on a limited scale in the local geographical region. "The success of commercial farming in the east will depend largely on the ability of the commercial growers to focus on high-value, specialty crops such as ethnic produce targeted at specific niche markets for favorable competitive advantages," Govindasamy explained.

The scientists analyzed and compared socioeconomic characteristics of 542 Mexican and Puerto Rican consumers using results from a bilingual telephone survey that included questions such as consumers' expenditures on total produce and ethnic produce, and consumer perceptions such as the importance of store availability, language, and willingness to buy locally grown, organic, genetically modified, and "country of origin labeled" (COOL) produce items.

"On the basis of our questions and responses we developed a model to predict the respondents' willingness to buy new ethnic produce items," said Govindasamy. "The model showed a significant positive impact on the purchase of new ethnic products when accompanied by adequate and accessible information such as store availability, Spanish-speaking store employees, and availability of COOL produce. This information will assist market intermediaries and farmers better understand Latino consumers' (Mexico and Puerto Rico groups) perceptions and factors that drive willingness to buy ethnic produce that is recently introduced or new to market."

Govindasamy observed that gauging ethnic consumer attitudes on any subject is a difficult process. "If a new produce item is deemed to be as safe as current produce in the shelves and it is readily recognized with appropriate labeling, its success in the marketplace will be decided by consumers." The researchers recommended that future studies of ethnic markets focus on other parts of United States to provide specific information to agricultural communities regarding specialty products of interest to Latino communities.


The complete study and abstract are available on the ASHS HortTechnology electronic journal web site:

Founded in 1903, the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) is the largest organization dedicated to advancing all facets of horticultural research, education, and application. More information at


Original Article:

Willingness to Buy New Ethnic Produce Items: A Study of Latino Consumers from Mexico and Puerto Rico in the Eastern United States
Ramu Govindasamy, Venkata S. Puduri, and James E. Simon
HortTechnology 21:202–207. [Abstract][Full Text][PDF]

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