Melon consumers look for five things when choosing their fruit
Americans are demanding more fresh fruits than ever (Bentley, 2017), and among all fruits, melons are one of the most consumed fresh fruits.
To illustrate, the average American consumes on average 8.7 pounds of cantaloupe and 1.5 pounds of honeydew each year (Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, 2018).
A consumer’s decision to purchase fruits is driven mainly by three product attributes: search, experience, and credence attributes.
Search attributes are those attributes that the consumer can verify at the point of purchase (e.g., price, size); experience attributes are validated only after consumption (e.g., sweetness, flavor); credence attributes are not usually experienced but typically command a price premium and are communicated through labels (e.g., organic, local) (Moser et al., 2011).
Understanding which melon attributes are valued by which consumer groups are of interest to academics, growers, and retailers to motivate increased sales and consumption of melon.
This publication illustrates the primary search, experience, and credence melon attributes that are favored by Americans.
This publication uses data from Characterizing the U.S. Melon Market, a study published by researchers from Purdue University and Michigan State University.
To better understand melon consumers, researchers categorized 1,718 survey respondents into four melon consumption groups: non-eater, light, moderate, and heavy.
The study assessed consumer attitudes, consumption, and preferred melon attributes by consumer category and compared their demographics, habits, and preferences for different melon attributes.
What did the study find?
The top 5 attributes among all melon consumers were flavor (84.5% of purchasers), freshness (83.7% of purchasers), ripeness (79.5% of purchasers), sweetness (78.6% of purchasers), and price (75.9% of purchasers).
It is interesting to note that four of the five top attributes are experience attributes (i.e., flavor, freshness, ripeness, and sweetness).
This result highlights the importance of consumers’ past experiences as a major driver of future purchasing decisions.
Thus, we expect that businesses using experiential marketing – the creation of experiences between products and consumers – can greatly impact the demand for products and foster lasting connections between customers and businesses.
Providing taste samples may help facilitate the use of experience attributes at the point of purchase. Results also show that price is an important attribute that over two-thirds of consumers take into consideration when purchasing melons.
Figure 3 illustrates how the top 5 melon attributes rate across consumer categories. Results show that attributes like flavor, freshness, ripeness, and sweetness (experience attributes) are more important to the heavy consumption group, while price (search attribute) is more relevant for light and non-eater consumers. Figure 3 also shows that moderate and light consumers have similar preferences regarding the top 5 melon attributes, while non-eaters tend to rate the lowest in importance for all attributes except price.
Figure 3. Top 5 Melon Attributes by Consumer Segment
Figure 4 illustrates how heavy melon consumers (those consuming 6+ servings per month) rate melon attributes.
The importance of understanding the preferences of heavy consumers lies in their high demand for melons.
The top 5 attributes that this group of consumers value the most are flavor (87.5%), freshness (86.8%), sweetness (83.4%), ripeness (82.2%) and lack of bruises (78%).
Similar to the entire sample of respondents, we can see that four of the top five attributes are experience attributes; the one search attribute (lack of bruises) is highly related to the quality of the fruit and food safety. The importance of Credence, Experience and Search Melon Attributes Credence attributes are difficult to ascertain directly by consumers either at the point of purchase or after consumption.
The importance of credence attributes is related to the fact that they typically command a price premium and are communicated through marketing labels (e.g., organically grown or locally produced).
As shown in Figure 5, credence attributes are more valued by heavy and moderate consumers than their counterparts.
We can also observe that the “free of pesticides” attribute was the most important credence attribute for consumers, followed by locally produced and organically grown melons.
Especially for the high consumer group, clear communication of these credence attributes can help affirm a purchase decision.
Experience attributes are attributes that tend to be validated after consumption (e.g., sweetness, flavor, texture) and received the highest importance among all melon attributes.
Figure 5. Percentage Importance of Credence Attributes by Consumer Category
As observed in Figure 6, the top 3 experience attributes are flavor, freshness, and ripeness. Figure 6 illustrates how heavy consumers highly value experience attributes when compared to moderate, light, and non-consumers.
Figure 6. Percentage Importance of Experience Attributes by Consumer Category
This finding suggests the importance of sampling stands to gain exposure and build and maintain a customer base.
A free taste of melons can help small brands/farmers attract the attention of customers and solidify the experience attributes. Search attributes are those the consumer can verify at the point of purchase (e.g., price, size, aroma).
The top 3 search attributes ranked from the most to least important by consumer category are price, lack of bruises, and firmness.
Melon purchasers can be categorized into four groups based on their consumption level: non-eater, light, moderate, and heavy consumers. Heavy and moderate consumers were, on average, 5 years younger than light and non-consumers and had a lower representation of women in the sample.
In addition, heavy and moderate consumers had more children in the household. Finally, the proportion of heavy consumers with a college education and higher household income was greater when compared to the other groups.
It appears that younger and more highly educated Americans that also have higher disposable income tended to consume more melons and may be willing to pay more for them.
Results from the study show that highlighting the importance of experience and search attributes in marketing campaigns can be an efficient way to attract melon consumers.
In addition, heavy and moderate consumers reported a higher valuation of all experience attributes, when compared to light and non-consumers.
Similar to experience attributes, credence attributes were more valued by heavy and moderate consumers than their counterparts.
An implication of these findings is the opportunity for retailers to signal experience and credence attributes through creative labeling and advertising programs. For example, emphasizing the farm story and melon origin can be useful to advertise melons in local markets.
Results from the study show that melon purchasers value melon attributes differently, and understanding how purchasers’ preferences differ could help farmers and food retailers better position the products.
It seems that those consuming more melons have higher quality standards and care less about the price compared to the other two segments. The fact that light- and non-consumers of melons care more about prices than finding a premium fruit should be considered when selecting melon varieties for retail.
What should retailers do with this information? First, marketers need to understand that it is not only the search attributes that likely will help sell the melons – it is mainly the experience attributes.
Point of purchase information should highlight the freshness, sweetness, and other experience attributes. This is why sampling is so helpful to sales.
Secondly, retailers should understand that credence attributes are more important than easily observed search attributes.
Here, clear communication about production practices (e.g., organic, pesticide-free, sustainable production, etc.) will be helpful and supplement the information gained by taste sampling.
Understanding the priorities of different product attributes in the purchase decision can greatly aid point of purchase communication and ultimately help foster increased demand.
The content of this article 'Melon consumers look for five things when choosing their fruit' was prepared by Purdue University and has been revised and republished by FreshFruitPortal.com.