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National consumer survey of dairy food preferences and purchase interest.

M. Camire




National consumer survey of dairy food preferences and purchase interest.
M. Camire*1, R. Bernier2, R. Labbe2, D. Bouchard2, G. Shaler3, L. Yeitz3. 1University of Maine Orono, ME, 2Atlantic Corporation Waterville, ME, 3University of Southern Maine Portland, ME.

The United States' dairy industry faces increasing competition from plant-based dairy mimetics, fluctuating export markets, and animal welfare criticism. Small and medium-sized dairy farms are vanishing. Improved understanding of American consumers' attitudes and desires could enable small dairy processors to expand markets and sustain smaller farms through niche product marketing. We conducted an Internet survey in the summer of 2019. At least 400 adults aged 18 years or older were recruited from each US state by Dynata (n = 20,040). National, regional, and state results were tabulated. Data were analyzed by chi-squared and ANOVA, with a significance level of P = 0.05. Nearly 97% of the respondents consume dairy foods. Fewer than 50% of respondents were aware of local dairy farms, processing, or local products sold in retail stores. Residents of the New England, East North Central, and Mid-Atlantic regions were more knowledgeable of local dairy businesses and products. The respondents who consume dairy foods were aware of the farm locations only 25% of the time spent shopping; the consumers knew where the products were processed 24% of the time, and they read the product labels only 31% of the time to find that information. When asked how label claims would influence their willingness to pay (WTP) for conventional dairy products from larger, regional, and national processors, survey participants said they would pay less for raw products, and more for local products. Cows' milk was preferred by 92%, and 72% preferred cheese made from cows' milk. Vermonters and people aged 55 or older rated the visual, taste, and nutritional quality of milk, cream, butter, yogurt, cheese, and frozen desserts higher than the national mean scores on a 7-point scale. The most-preferred package size (61% of respondents) for milk was one gallon, but only 49% of Mid-Atlantic residents chose that option. One-third of respondents chose clear plastic containers as best for milk. The data from this survey guided the development of an online visualization tool for farmers and processors to better understand dairy food preferences among consumers in their marketing area.

Keywords: consumers, local, purchasing.