Academic journal article IUP Journal of Management Research

The US Hispanic Consumers' Perception towards Buying Country of Origin Labeled Ethnic Produce

Academic journal article IUP Journal of Management Research

The US Hispanic Consumers' Perception towards Buying Country of Origin Labeled Ethnic Produce

Article excerpt

Hispanic population is the fastest growing minority group in the US. The growing Hispanic immigrant population also brings a niche demand for familiar foods from their homeland. This community is diverse, coming from many different countries and regions, each with their unique foods, spices and flavors. The rapid expansion of Hispanic ethnic population presents significant opportunities for country of origin produce. The paper attempts to document the socioeconomic characteristics of Hispanic ethnic consumers and their preferences for Country of Origin Labeled (COOL) produce.

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Introduction

The Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) information is an old concept to consumers of agricultural produce. A consumer's purchasing decision can be significantly influenced by the use of produce information pertaining to origin and its contents. The information associated with the produce also affects a consumer's long-term perception and attitude relative to purchasing and use. Over the years, many consumer groups and agriculturists have looked for US legislation that would require produce suppliers to provide country of origin information on imported products. To protect the consumers' rights, in 2002, the US Congress amended the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 by incorporating COOL in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 to require retailers to inform consumers of the country of origin for covered commodities (Federal Register, 2002). The term 'covered commodity' includes perishable agricultural commodities that are defined as fresh fruits and vegetables. According to Economic Research Service - US Department of Agriculture (ERS-USDA), to convey COOL information to consumers, retailers may use a label, stamp, mark, placard, or other clear and visible sign on the covered commodity, or on the package, display, holding unit, or bin containing the commodity at the final point of consumption (Farm Bill, 2002).

American consumers have been acquiring increasing knowledge concerning the quality, safety and production attributes of their food (Caswell, 1998). Production attributes, including country of origin, are considered to be important characteristics (Darby and Karni, 1973; and Caswell and Mojduszka, 1996). Several consumer surveys indicate that a high percentage of respondents strongly advocated the COOL requirements (Umberger et al. 2003). A national study, conducted by Charlton Research Company of San Francisco (Charlton Research Group, 1996), showed 74% support for COOL fresh produce. When asked why country of origin matters, 41% of the respondents cited concerns about foreign production methods or safety/ sanitation standards. A consumer survey of Florida (University of South Florida, 1999) showed that 96% favored COOL on fresh fruits and vegetables. Another survey result from New Jersey in 2004 showed that 84% of consumers would like markets to provide COOL of fresh produce (Puduri et al., 2009).

According to the US census, the overall growth of the Hispanic population in the US increased by 58% from 1990 to 2000 due to immigration or birth, making it the fastest growing minority group in the US (US Census, 1990 and 2000). As per the US Census (2010), US population was about 308.7 million, with a 9.7% increase from the Census 2000 population of 281.4 million. Among the US ethnic population, there were 50.5 million Hispanics, comprising 16% of the total population in 2010. The Hispanic population increased by 15.2 million between 2000 and 2010. According to the US census definition, 'Hispanic' or 'Latino' refers to "A person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of the race". Among the Hispanic population in the US, Mexican and Puerto Rican are the major subgroups.

The growing immigrant population also brings a niche demand for familiar foods from their homelands. This creates a market for such produce fueled by the increasing number of consumers eager to purchase them. …

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