The International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research (ICABR)

Non technical abstract

Using Simulated Test Marketing to Examine Purchase Interest in Food Products that are positioned as GMO Free

Marianne McGarry Wolf
Cal Poly State University
California, USA

Angela Stephens
Cal Poly State University
California, USA

Nicci Pedrazzi
Cal Poly State University
California, U
SA
 

            Research has been conducted to examine consumer attitudes toward genetically modified food.   However, attitude research does not address the specific question:  “Will purchase interest in a specific product be impacted by the consumer’s knowledge that a product is a genetically modified food product?”According to the Wall Street Journal on April 5, 2001, there is a segment of the consumer market that want to know of the presence of genetically modified ingredients and want to avoid them.  In response to the consumers that want to avoid genetically modified ingredients in food products, numerous products have appeared on the grocery shelves in the United States that bear the label “non-GMO.”  The Wall Street Journal indicated that industry executives believe that the non-GMO segment is growing approximately as fast as organic food products;  it is a $7.8 billion market that is growing at eight times the rate of the packaged foods market.

 

            This research uses simulated test marketing methodology to examine the impact of a GMO Free label on purchase interest for two snack products. Simulated test marketing research is a valid methodology that has been used by the marketing community since the 1960’s to forecast purchase interest in new products and new positionings for existing products.  For example, micowaveable, fat free, low calorie, and organic have been examined through the use of simulated test marketing as characteristics of food products that impact purchase interest. Simulated test marketing is a combination of mathematical modeling and a laboratory experiment.  The laboratory experiment is used to simulate the purchase environment for consumers. It may be hypothesized that consumer reaction to a GMO Free positioning will be related to the type of food product that has such a positioning.  Therefore, this research examines consumer response to the GMO Free positioning to two types of branded convenience food products: a salty snack food and a fresh vegetable snack food. This research uses the laboratory experiment component of simulated test marketing in a four cell study design.  One cell examines the newly positioned GMO Free salty snack product.  The second cell examines the same product without the GMO Free positioning at the same price.  Cell three examines the newly positioned GMO Free vegetable snack product.  The fourth cell examines the same product without the GMO Free positioning at the same price.  A print advertisement is the stimulus used to represent the concept in the laboratory experiment.

 

The research uses a survey instrument and a concept exposure that were administered through the use of a personal interview of 558 randomly selected respondents at food stores in February 2001 in San Luis Obispo County, California.  San Luis Obispo County was designated the best test market in the United States by Demographics Daily.  San Luis Obispo was found to be the best of 3,141 counties to represent a microcosm of the United States based on 33 statistical indicators.

 

The GMO Free positioning had no impact on purchase interest for either of the products examined, a salty snack food and a fresh vegetable snack food product.  Consumers that indicated that free of genetically modified ingredients was extremely or very important in their purchase decision for a snack product did not have a higher purchase interest for the products labeled GMO Free.  The same consumers indicated that they were less likely to purchase genetically modified food products. 

 

Positioning research was conducted to determine the characteristics of snack food products that are important to consumers when purchasing snack products.  Eight characteristics were examined.  The least important of the eight characteristics was free of genetically modified ingredients. Each product was also rated on how well each of the eight characteristics described the product.  Consumers that rated the salty snack that was positioned GMO Free indicated that the phrase free of genetically modified ingredients described the product slightly. Consumers that rated the salty snack that was positioned GMO Free indicated that the phrase free of genetically modified ingredients described the product somewhat.  Therefore, it appears that many consumers do not understand the term GMO Free. 

 

The GMO Free positioning for a snack food does not impact the purchase interest for consumers.  This may indicate that while consumers report in attitudinal research a likelihood of not purchasing genetically modified food products, when deciding to purchase branded and priced products in a competitive context, the presence of genetically modified ingredients is a factor of low importance.  In addition, many consumers are not familiar with the meaning of GMO Free.

 

 


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