../Morning Post
Posted October 2, 2009

Vineland Research and Innovation Centre Leads Project to Assess Consumer Perceptions of Local, Sustainable and Organic Food Quality

VINELAND - Dr. Isabelle Lesschaeve, is leading a study on consumer response to local, sustainable and organic food claims. This work will forge new ground in determining how price, sensory experience, production practices and region of origin claims affect Ontario consumer decisions to buy horticultural products and wines.

"As an example, growth in the organic sector has been tied to claims that organic food is a healthier and more environmentally responsible choice. However no systematic research has been conducted to assess how consumers truly respond to these claims," said Dr. Isabelle Lesschaeve. "In Ontario, similar expectations about health and environmental benefits exist for locally produced food. Promotion in this sector has developed an opportunity to expand the Ontario market and sustain the agri-food sector. This is why it is necessary to understand the sensory and psychological factors affecting consumer purchases of organic and local food and whether production practices or region of origin have a significant impact on actual purchase behavior."

"Building the relationship between market opportunities and agri-food research is a major driver for Vineland," said Dr. Jim Brandle, CEO, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. "Ontario agri-food businesses, from growers through to retail, benefit when they can make informed decisions and deliver products that consumers want. This work will assist in better understanding the differences between what consumers say they will buy and what they actually do buy. With a clearer picture of how the consumer makes choices, labeling and marketing strategies can be tailored to the advantage of Ontario producers."

Vineland Research and Innovation Centre will be partnering with Local Food Plus, Vineland Growers Co-operative, Ontario Grape and Wine Research Inc. and Niagara Peninsula Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association for this project. In addition Dr. Antonia Mantonakis, Dr. Carman Cullen and Dr. Eugene Kaciak from the Brock University Faculty of Business, St. Catharines, Ontario, have generously offered to provide their expertise.

For this project OMAFRA's New Directions Research Program has awarded a grant of $156,910. The New Directions program was designed to stimulate sustainable growth and competitiveness of Ontario's agri-food sector through investment in innovative and high quality research in partnership with industry, rural communities/organizations, other levels of government and research institutions.

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