Agriculture Press Release

January 30, 2003

Bronson reports of survey showing consumer concern about country of origin

TALLAHASSEE -- With threats of bio-terrorism around the globe, a recent national survey confirms that consumers want to see the country of origin listed on fresh fruits and vegetables, and that they are willing to pay more for produce grown in the United States. Armed with this new information on consumer attitudes toward labeling, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson will attend the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture’s Mid-year Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C., on January 31.

“There has been some reluctance on the part of retailers to go to the trouble of providing country-of-origin information, but this survey should help provide assurance that consumers want to know where their food comes from,” Bronson said. “I urge my fellow Commissioners of Agriculture to encourage their state’s retailers to start identifying the country of origin now, rather than waiting until it becomes mandatory.”

Under the 2002 Farm Act, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture must create guidelines for mandatory point-of-origin labeling no later than September 30, 2004. Until then, compliance is voluntary and based on guidelines issued by the Secretary in 2002.

The new survey was designed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and conducted by Mid-Florida Marketing and Research, Inc. Telephone interviews were conducted days, evenings and weekends, and gauged the shopping habits of 2,500 consumers in eight major cities: New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Tampa, Birmingham, Charlotte, and Cincinnati.

Consumers indicated that country-of-origin information is an important factor in their buying decisions, and that they have more confidence in the quality of domestic produce. They also believe that food produced in the United States is safer than food imported from other countries.

According to the survey:

· If the country of origin was clearly identified on fruits and vegetables, 37 percent of consumers said they would be willing to pay between 10 and 20 percent more for the same produce.

· More than two-thirds of consumers at least sometimes notice the country where fresh produce is grown. One-third notices the produce’s country of origin “always” or “often.”

· 56 percent of consumers think that produce grown in the United States is safer than imported produce.

· 41 percent rate U.S.-grown produce as being of higher quality than imported produce.

· If price and appearance were equal, 61 percent of consumers would select U.S.-grown produce.

· 62 percent would purchase U.S. produce if it had a logo or label identifying its country of origin.

· When evaluating factors that influenced their purchase of U.S.-grown produce, consumers ranked safety higher than price or health.

· 30 percent of consumers would prefer to see the country of origin indicated on a sticker on the item; 27 percent preferred a display sign; 41 percent preferred both.

Highlights and graphs of the survey data can be viewed at florida-agriculture.com.

Nelson Pugh, Director of Marketing for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said the survey was designed to assist policymakers in formulating strategies to effectively incorporate point-of-origin information into the marketplace.

“We’ve begun the process of assessing respondent perceptions and cross-tabulations, which has been an informative experience,” Pugh said. “We also feel that retailers now have a clear incentive to enthusiastically embrace the point-of-origin mandates.”

Bronson also stated that Florida consumers were especially aware of where their produce originates because of the successful Florida Agricultural Promotional Campaign that features the highly recognized “Fresh from Florida” logo, an icon that clearly identifies locally grown produce at retail.

“The more information consumers have, the better buying decisions they can make,” Bronson said. “With bio-terrorism concerns at an all-time high, people ought to know where their food comes from.”

Click here to view country of origin national survey


For more information:
Terence McElroy
(850) 488-3022


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