Relative Importance Rankings for Pork Attributes by Asian-Origin Consumers in California: Applying an Ordered Probit Model to a Choice-Based Sample

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ABSTRACT

This paper reports on a study examining the ranking of selected attributes of fresh pork by Asian-origin consumers in San Francisco, California. Freshness is ranked as the most important attribute, followed by the attributes of the color of meat, lowness in fat, and the whiteness of fat. The attributes of price, freedom from chemicals, and being USDA labelled were also ranked to be of importance. Empirical results from an ordered probit model, postulated to explain respondents' importance rankings of attributes, suggested that particular demographic and socio-economic characteristics of Asian-origin consumers influenced the importance rankings of selected pork attributes. The findings suggest that Asian-origin consumers should not be treated as a single homogenous niche group in marketing, since there are identifiable sub-groups of these consumers with specific attitudes and preferences.

Background

California is a large market for many food products, including pork. The fact that most pork consumed in California must be shipped into the state makes this a market of particular interest to pork suppliers in other regions. Recognition of increasing ethnic diversity among California consumers, as in many other North American food markets, raises interest in identifying preferences of particular ethnic origin groups for particular foods (Senauer, Asp and Kinsey, 1992). Among the various ethnic-origin subgroups that have distinct food preferences, the ethnic Asian-origin sub-market is of particular interest to pork suppliers. For example, the ethnic Asian-origin population in the Pacific Northwest has been identified as a potential niche market for western Canadian fresh pork (Kuperis et al., 1999). Urban niche markets for fresh pork in northern California may also be of potential interest to suppliers from this region. However, to this point relatively little information is available that assesses consumers' preferences in this ethnic market segment.

A number of factors contribute to interest in identifying information on the preferences of Asian-origin fresh pork consumers in San Francisco. First, pork is the primary meat consumed by many Asian-origin consumers. For example, although per-capita meat consumption in Hong Kong and Taiwan is lower than in North America, consumption of pork is much higher in these countries than in North America. Specifically, USDA data for 1997 indicate that per-capita consumption of pork was some 11 kg more in Taiwan than in the United States, while people in Hong Kong consumed about 24 kg more pork than their American counterparts (USDA, 1999). A large proportion of America's Asian-origin population resides in California and this population segment is growing (State of California, 2000, 1998b). Much of America's Asian-- origin population is concentrated in the large urban centers in the west (USDC, 1995). Demographic projections suggest rapid future growth of this ethnic group, due to immigration (Beale, 2000). It has also been documented that different approaches and methods apply to merchandising and retailing fresh pork for the Asian-origin market segment than to other population segments (Kuperis et al., 1999). One reflection of these differences is that more than half of Asian-origin consumers in San Francisco purchase their fresh pork in Asian stores (Le, 1999). Ethnic Asian retail food stores carry different varieties of pork cuts and parts than is typically the case for conventional supermarkets.

To meet the requirements for effective marketing to a segment of ethnic consumers, marketers need to identify and understand both the nature of the pork attributes that are most valued by ethnic-origin consumers and the factors that determine these preferences. Such knowledge should enable suppliers to determine more effective marketing strategies to penetrate this market segment. Ethnic Asian/Pacific Islanders comprised 34 percent of the population of San Francisco County in July 1998, an increase from the 28 percent of the total population reported in the 1990 census (State of California, 2000). …