The Top 5 Melon Attributes
Additional authors include: Enrique Velasco, Bridget Behe, and Petrus Langenhoven
Americans are demanding more fresh fruits than ever, 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). Understanding which melon attributes are valued by which consumer groups is 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 demographic, habits, and preferences for different melon attributes.
The survey was distributed to a representative sample of the U.S. population in terms of age, gender and pre-tax income. Overall, respondents were on average 46 years old, almost half of the sample was female (48%), and most of the sample was comprised of Caucasian/white Americans (77%). About half of the sample had college education. Less than half (45%) of the respondents reported less than $50,000 in annual household income, followed by 33% of respondents reporting between $50,000 and $100,000 in annual household income, and 22% of respondents earning more than $100,000 in annual household income.
Torres, Langenhoven, and Behe (2020) divided survey respondents into four melon consumption segments: non-eater, light, moderate, and heavy consumer. The non-eater group was comprised of 20% of the sample and were those participants who reported purchasing but not consuming melons. Light consumers(36%) were those who consumed less than 3 servings of melon per month (1serving = 1 cup of melon). Moderate consumers (22%) were those who consumed between 3 and less than 6 servings of melon per month. Lastly, heavy consumers(22%) were those who consumed 6 or more servings of melon per month. Figure 1 compares the main characteristics of melon consumers using an Analysis of Variance(ANOVA).
The top 5 melon attributes
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). Figure 1 illustrates results from the study revealing that consumers ranked these attributes as the most important at the point of the purchase.
It is interesting to note that four of five top attributes are experience attributes (i.e., flavor, freshness, ripeness, and sweetness). This result highlights the importance of consumer’s 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 of 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 in consideration when purchasing melons.
Figure 2 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 2 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.
What should retailers do with this information?
Melon purchasers can be categorized in segments 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 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. This is supported by the fact that 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.
The fact that heavy consumers seem to prioritize experiences like freshness and flavor of melons can guide the design of marketing labels at the point of sale. On the other hand, light consumers and non-eaters might be more inclined to compare prices among vendors. The similarities between non-eaters and light consumers, in contrast to moderate and heavy consumers, have compelling industry implications. It seems that those consuming more melons have higher quality standards and care less about the price compared to the other two segments.
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 the 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.
Agricultural Marketing Resource Center. 2018. Melons. 30 October 2020.<https://www.agmrc.org/commodities-products/vegetables/melons>.
Torres, A., Langenhoven, P., & Behe, B. K. (2020). Characterizing the US Melon Market. HortScience, 55(6),795-803.