Vineland's Consumer Insights research focuses primarily on understanding what motivates consumers in buying horticultural products. Amy Bowen, PhD and her research team provide information that guides breeding program selection, the introduction of new varieties and the promotion of production practices to ensure sensory and non-sensory attributes match consumer appeal.
There are two types of research panels at Vineland, a trained sensory panel and a consumer panel. The former is comprised of 15 part-time Vineland employees who meet on a weekly basis in the sensory lab. Their job is to rate, describe and differentiate sensory characteristics of products to identify how they are similar or different. The consumer panel consists of a large sample group that rates questions such as “which product do you prefer?”. With this panel consumer response to colour, appearance, taste, texture and aroma is gauged. This panel also looks at non-sensory cues including packaging, health claims and price that impact consumers' purchasing decisions. Information from both panels is linked to understand products consumers like/dislike and identify sensory and non-sensory attributes impacting their choices.
Current projects include:
- Feeding Diversity: Bringing World Crops to Market – This research area looks at identifying consumer purchase drivers and cost of production for okra and eggplant (Asian and Indian) and retail/wholesale prices for world crop vegetables throughout local production season.
- The Canadian Hardy Rose Breeding Program – The research aims to understand the landscape rose value chain in Canadian and Northern European markets as well as identify landscape rose attributes important to Canadian and Northern European consumers.
- Opening New Markets: Driving Growth in Canadian Horticulture with New Plant Varieties – Sensory characteristics related to consumer preference for apples are identified in this research program. The Consumer Insights team also performs consumer research to guide release of new varieties.
- Breeding Vegetables for Canadian Production and Global Markets – This research program entails the identification of sensory characteristics related to consumer preference for sweet potato varieties adapted to Canadian growing conditions for both fresh and processed markets and the understanding of the cost of production for sweet potatoes.
- Enhancing Quality and Production of Canadian Greenhouse Tomatoes – The sensory characteristics which drive consumers’ liking for tomatoes on the vine (TOVs) are investigated to ensure new varieties have the flavour consumers want.
- The Right Tools: Integrating Biological Control Systems for Impact and Results –The Consumer Insights team investigates consumer perception to production practices. They also perform grower survey to determine uptake of biocontrol method and identify the limitations to increased adoption by greenhouse growers.