This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

From Field to Plate: Alabama Fruit and Vegetable Production, Marketing, and the Impact of Consumer Demand




Rogers, Sara

Type of Degree





Extensive research has been conducted on the various aspects of the fresh produce supply chain including producers, wholesalers, retailers, and consumers. However, there is currently a lack of research regarding consumer demands for locally-grown, fresh fruits and vegetables in Alabama. The disconnect between consumers, producers, and grocers within a state contributes to the problem due to a lack of informational research in this area. This study expanded upon previous research focused on varying aspects of local production, retail sales of local produce, and consumer purchasing habits. Survey instruments were used to gather the data from consumers, producers, and grocery store produce managers. Alabama producers were asked to complete a survey regarding their production and marketing practices. To assess the marketing system for Alabama-grown, fresh fruits and vegetables, researchers asked retail outlet managers and producer buyers to complete a survey regarding current and future purchases of fresh produce. Researchers asked a selected group of Alabama residents to complete a survey regarding current purchases of locally-grown fresh produce, in an effort to assess some aspects of consumer demand for fresh fruits and vegetables.Survey results from each group were the used in the overall evaluation of Alabama’s fresh fruit and vegetable supply chain. There is an aging population of fruit and vegetable producers in Alabama. Although they are producing more, both in terms of variety and acreage, they tend to use the same decision making techniques from the previous year. Currently, the majority of producers are marketing their produce directly to consumers through pick-your-own operations and farmers markets. Retailers also considered consumers to value locally-produced, fresh fruits and vegetables. The majority (89%) of retailers also indicated that consumers request additional varieties of local produce. Based on the data, consumers were interested in purchasing Alabama-grown produce, and they would purchase more given greater availability. The majority (72%) of respondents were willing to purchase Alabama-grown produce. The next step is determining how to encourage growth and sustain an increased volume of production, along with providing viable alternatives for marketing fresh fruits and vegetables among producers in the state of Alabama. For retailers, the next step is determining which varieties of local produce are being requested; along with determining if it is feasible to procure those produce varieties in order to sell them in Alabama retail outlets. With consumers, the next step is determining ways to educate consumers about current selection and seasonality of locally-grown, fresh fruits and vegetables. Meeting the needs of consumers could help encourage growth in the Alabama produce industry. For one, if producers know what consumers are looking for, then they can evaluate current production methods and seek alternatives to better meet this demand. Additionally, produce managers at grocery stores can work towards stocking produce desired by the public. Evaluating consumer demand is important for making sales, and knowing what consumers want can aid in that process.