June 1999 // Volume 37 // Number 3 // Research in Brief // 3RIB2

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Consumer Attitudes and Response Toward State-Sponsored Agricultural Promotion: An Evaluation of the Jersey Fresh Program*

Consumer response to the Jersey Fresh state-sponsored marketing program was evaluated by randomly surveying consumers on their awareness and opinions of the program and locally grown fresh produce. High consumer awareness and even willingness-to-pay a premium for Jersey Fresh produce were found. Consumers rated the quality and freshness of locally grown produced higher than non-Jersey Fresh fruits and vegetables. Participants also indicated that price cards and television advertising were the most effective forms Jersey Fresh promotion. The results may provide beneficial information for other states and extension agents educating growers or produce retailers.

Ramu Govindasamy
Marketing Specialist and Assistant Professor
Internet address: govindasamy@aesop.rutgers.edu

John Italia
Program Associate

Daymon Thatch

Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics
Cook College, Rutgers University
New Brunswick, New Jersey


Agricultural growers in many states face enormous pressure from urbanization, regulation, and increasingly competitive markets. For those who rent, appreciating land values have also limited their ability to remain profitable. In many northeastern states where population density continues to increase and median farm sizes are much smaller than the central and western United States, rural communities are falling victim to new construction.

State-sponsored agricultural marketing programs have been implemented in as many as 23 states (Patterson, Olofsson, Richards, & Sass, 1997) to facilitate the regional economy, local employment, to promote the sustainability of agriculture, and balance rapid urbanization and development. State-sponsored marketing programs promoting locally grown fresh produce offer a wide range of benefits to both producers and consumers.

Producers gain the advantage of increased demand from a local population with low transportation costs. Produce marketed close in proximity to its point of harvest is also likely to remain fresh longer on retail shelves and in consumers' homes. Furthermore, direct support of local agriculture allows for the preservation of open space and non-market environmental amenities in the region. Government supported marketing programs are of unique relevance to Extension agents who often assume the role of bridging the gap between state departments of agriculture and producers/retailers. This is especially true when the producers market their produce directly to consumers.

One of the oldest and most successful state attempts to bolster farm profits of local growers is the Jersey Fresh Program established by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA). The geographic location of New Jersey provides several benefits that can translate into increased profits for farmers. Local growers have the distinct competitive advantage of being able to transport and market produce in the Northeastern states more efficiently than Western and Southern growers. Due to its proximity to the large consumer markets of the Northeast, New Jersey produce can be harvested at the height of ripeness and efficiently transported to these markets at minimal time and cost. Moreover, consumer demand for fresh and quality produce has also been growing in recent years (NJDA Annual Report, 1991).

The NJDA funded and initiated the Jersey Fresh Program to help growers capitalize on these competitive advantages and to increase the share of New Jersey produce in the retail markets. Jersey Fresh is one of the nation's leading examples of state-sponsored agricultural marketing promotion and is one of the most ambitious agricultural produce-promotional programs launched by the NJDA (NJDA Annual Report, 1986).

The fundamental purpose of this program is to promote locally grown fruits and vegetables with the intention of increasing the profitability of New Jersey farms and the viability of local agriculture. The promotional campaign highlights the freshness of New Jersey produce to give local growers a competitive edge over produce shipped from other states. Jersey Fresh is considered to be a key component of improving the sustainability of marginally profitable farms in the state.

In 1984, the initial year of the program, the NJDA allocated $325,000 to establish Jersey Fresh. The program now has an annual budget of approximately $1.2 million (Patterson, Olofsson, Richards & Sass, 1997). Recent economic analysis of the effects of the promotion expenditures on the agricultural cash receipts in New Jersey suggest that the Jersey Fresh Program expanded the markets for New Jersey products by 5.5% (Adelaja, Nayga, and Schilling, 1994). For each dollar invested in the program, approximately $46.90 was returned to the local agricultural economy. Adelaja et al. also estimated that every $1 spent on the program generated $15.20 in net farm income for local growers. In addition to attracting New Jersey consumers, significant consumer awareness of Jersey Fresh produce was also found in New York consumers (50 percent) and Pennsylvania consumers (30 percent) (Maples & Ross, Inc., 1996).

The promotional campaign provides consumer education and advertising focusing public attention on fruits and vegetables produced in the Garden State. Jersey Fresh attempts to foster consumer awareness through billboards, radio and television advertising, special promotions, and distribution of attractive point-of-purchase materials. These advertisements are well identified with an attractive Jersey Fresh logo that captures consumer attention. The NJDA also participates in many promotional events such as farmers' market fairs, trade shows, cooking competitions, and in-store Jersey Fresh produce demos held throughout the state. Price-cards, stickers, banners, paper bags, and worker's aprons with the program logos are distributed to retail organizations. Participating vendors also receive exposure through Jersey Fresh television commercials and billboards.

The purpose of this study was to evaluate consumer awareness and response to the Jersey Fresh Program. Data were collected through a mail survey randomly sent to households in all counties of New Jersey. The findings may be transferable to other states interested in developing agricultural marketing programs and could also be used to statistically select certain segments of the population to whom the program should be targeted. The findings also offer a positive illustration of the benefits of state-sponsored marketing which, if implemented, may be realized in other regions of the country.

Data Collection

The latest telephone book for each county was used to compile the addresses of survey participants. Included with each questionnaire were a prepaid return envelope and a cover letter that introduced the Jersey Fresh Program and explained the purpose of the study. The effort of the respondent was acknowledged and $1 was enclosed as an incentive for their participation and in appreciation of their effort.

A focus group helped define topics and questions for inclusion in the survey instrument. The questionnaire was pre-tested by several consumers and improved based on their input. Of the 500 questionnaires that were sent in July 1996, 186 responses were received by the end of the first due date in August 1996. A reminder was sent to all the non-responders increasing the final number of useable responses received to 209, with a response rate of 44%.

The survey consisted of questions relating to consumer shopping habits, opinions about locally grown produce, the relative importance placed on qualitative factors such as produce price, quality, and freshness, and about the various promotions displayed in markets. The respondents who were aware of Jersey Fresh were asked to answer additional questions related to where they had seen or heard of the program logo and what they understood by the logo.

The sample was stratified such that more surveys were sent to densely populated counties. Most of the respondents lived in suburban households (82.8%) and the average residency in the state was approximately 37 years. Nearly half the respondents had a home garden and the average household size of the sample was 2.8 individuals. Females accounted for the majority (61.7%) of participants returning the questionnaire. The average consumer who responded to the survey was 36 to 50 years of age, had a college degree, was employed, Caucasian, and had an annual household income of $40,000 to $59,000. Except for the high percentage of females, the sample was representative of the residents in the region.

Of the 209 consumers who responded, the majority (83.3%) indicated that they regularly shopped at supermarkets for fresh produce. Consumers who often shopped at farmers' markets accounted for 46.3% of the sample while those who shopped at roadside stands accounted for 39.6%.

Perceptions of Consumers Who Were Aware of Jersey Fresh

Approximately 77% of the participants reported that they were aware of the Jersey Fresh Program and that they recognized the logo. The majority also recalled seeing the logos on produce displays (65.2%) or through television advertisement (62.0%). Table 1 indicates the various locations consumers observed Jersey Fresh logos. Those who frequently shop at direct marketing facilities such as farmers' markets and roadside stands are more likely to be aware of the Jersey Fresh Program (Govindasamy, Italia, & Thatch, 1998a).

Consumers who recognized the logo were further separated into those who had purchased Jersey Fresh produce and those who had not. This segregation eliminated non-sample error regarding consumer perceptions of the produce. Of the 164 respondents who were aware of the Jersey Fresh Program, the majority (84.3%) searched for Jersey Fresh labeled produce when grocery shopping at least occasionally.

Table 1
Places Where the Jersey Fresh Logo Was Frequently Seen
Frequency Percent Rank
Produce displays 107 65.2 1
Television advertisements 101 62.0 2
Retailers advertisements 70 42.7 3
Roadside market stands 48 29.3 4
Price cards on produce 41 25.0 5
Billboards 37 22.6 6
Posters and stickers 37 22.6 7
Radio advertisements 32 19.6 8
(n = 209)

The sample population responded positively when asked to critique the quality, freshness, price, and packaging of Jersey Fresh produce. When commenting on quality, 69.3% found Jersey Fresh produce superior to other fresh produce while 15% had no preference. None of the participants believed that Jersey Fresh produce was inferior to other fresh produce.

When comparing the price of Jersey Fresh with other fresh produce, 18.4% believed that Jersey Fresh produce was priced higher than other produce, 46.1% found no difference in retail price, 14.9% found it priced lower than other produce, and 14.9% responded that they did not know.

In support of the freshness of locally harvested produce, 73% of the 141 who responded found Jersey Fresh produce to be fresher than other produce while 15.6% said they found no difference. Although 5.7% reported that they were unsure, none indicated Jersey Fresh produce was inferior to other produced.

Consumers' Opinions on Locally Grown Produce

Respondents were asked several questions regarding their attitude towards locally grown produce and their interest in purchasing Jersey Fresh produce. When asked whether they were concerned about the origin of the fresh produce that they consume, 79.9% indicated that they did care about where their fruits and vegetables were grown. Approximately 89% of the participants indicated that they would like retailers to provide information about the origin of produce. Over 87% reported that they would like to purchase more produce grown by New Jersey farms, while 13% did not care about the origin of the fresh produce they purchased.

Table 2 displays consumer shopping habits cross-tabulated with awareness of the Jersey Fresh program. Overall, consumers who cared about the origin, those who liked to have information about the origin of produce, and those who wished to buy produce grown in New Jersey farms were more aware of Jersey Fresh than those who did not. Consumers who often read food advertisements were also more aware of Jersey Fresh than those who did not. Consumers who shopped at more than one store in order to purchase advertised specials were found to be more aware of Jersey Fresh than those who did not.

Table 2
Consumer Awareness of Jersey Fresh and Shopping Habits
Aware of Jersey Fresh? Yes%No %
Total Response 162 77.5% 47 22.5%
Care about origin of produce Yes 133 79.6% 34 20.4%
No 29 69.1% 13 30.9%
Would like information on produce origin Yes 144 77.8% 41 22.2%
No 18 75.0% 6 25.0%
Do you wish to buy produce that is grown in New Jersey farms? Yes 144 79.1% 38 20.9%
No 18 66.7% 9 33.3%
Do you plan before you go shopping for fresh produce? Yes 110 76.4% 34 23.6%
No 52 80.0% 13 20.0%
Do you read food advertisements in newspapers and grocery
store brochures?
Yes 133 82.6% 28 17.4%
No 29 60.4% 19 39.6%
Do you regularly shop at more than one food store in order
to purchase advertised specials?
Yes 86 80.4% 21 19.6%
No 76 74.5% 26 25.5%
Note: Percentages sum to 100% when added across the table from left to right

Participants were asked to comment on the relative importance of various factors taken under consideration when shopping for fresh produce. Quality was ranked first followed by freshness and appearance. The results suggest that for many consumers, characteristics such as produce quality and freshness rank at a higher importance than the costs associated with price or the effort involved in acquiring produce conveniently.

Participants ranked different promotions that are commonly displayed for advertisement purposes based on the effectiveness in attracting their attention (Table 3). The majority of consumers indicated that they liked attractive price tags on produce the most and that additional brochures given in stores were the least useful.

Table 3
Ranking of Different Advertisements Displayed in the Markets
Type Of Advertisement Mean Std. Dev
Special Price Tags 1.44 0.63
Special Demos 1.60 0.69
Colorful Stickers 1.64 0.66
Posters and Banners 1.75 0.75
Additional Brochures 1.94 0.79
Note: The most attractive options were given a score of "one", neutral ones were given a score of "two", and the less attractive options were given a score of "three."

Opinions of Consumers on Jersey Fresh

A series of questions was asked in order to determine whether Jersey Fresh Logos effectively attracted consumer attention and to determine whether consumers associated the program with quality New Jersey produce. The majority of consumers (96.1%) reported that they would find Jersey Fresh logos useful in identifying and selecting New Jersey produce and only 3.9% responded negatively.

When questioned further if in-store displays would prompt them to purchase Jersey Fresh produce, the majority of the consumers (64.1%) indicated that they would like buy more, while some consumers (35.9%) responded that they would buy only as much as they originally planned. No respondents would purchase less produce than they had planned if only Jersey Fresh fruits and vegetables were available implying that the consumers do not hold negative attitudes toward Jersey Fresh produce.

Moreover, a high percentage of consumers were likely to increase their purchases if they saw the logos on the produce. The prominent demographic characteristics of consumers who were more likely to have purchased Jersey Fresh Produce included females, those who were over 35 years of age, and those with higher levels of education (Govindasamy, Italia and Thatch, 1999, Govindasamy, Italia, & 1998b).

Of the 204 consumers who responded, the majority (79%) indicated that they would occasionally consider changing their usual supermarket in order to be able to purchase Jersey Fresh produce. Over 87% also said they would prefer the grocery store in their local area to have a greater selection of Jersey Fresh produce while only 1% of the consumers indicated negatively, 10.9% said that they did not care.

Approximately 75% of the participants were willing to pay a premium to purchase Jersey Fresh produce. Of those who would be willing to pay more, 46.8% indicated that they would consider paying between 1% to 5% over the market price for Jersey Fresh produce. While consumers who indicated that they would pay between 6% to 10% over the market price for Jersey Fresh produce accounted for 18.4% of the respondents, those who indicated that they would pay between 10% to 20% over the market price comprised 7% of the sample. Only 2.5% of the consumers indicated a willingness-to-pay greater than 20% for Jersey Fresh produce.

When cross tabulated with socio-demographic factors (Table 4), awareness of Jersey Fresh was found to increase with the number of years residing in New Jersey and was also greater among consumers who lived in rural areas compared to those who lived in suburban and urban areas. Among different age groups, those between 36 to 50 years of age were most aware of the program. Awareness generally increased with higher levels of income.

Table 4
Consumer Awareness of Jersey Fresh
Aware of Jersey Fresh? Yes Freq.
No Freq.
Total Response 162 78% 47 22%
Number of Years in NJ
   0 - 10 years 17 68% 8 32%
   11 - 20 years 15 82% 3 18%
   20 - 40 years 63 79% 17 21%
   Over 40 years 63 80% 16 20%
Type of location
   Urban 15 68% 7 32%
   Suburban 134 80% 34 20%
   Rural 11 85% 2 15%
   Female 104 81% 25 19%
   Male 58 73% 22 27%
   Less than 20 years 0 0% 1 100%
   21 - 35 years 22 76% 7 24%
   36 - 50 years 52 81% 12 19%
   51 - 65 years 84 78% 24 22%
   High School 53 79% 14 21%
   Some College 40 93% 3 7%
   College Graduate 12 60% 8 40%
   Advanced Degree 54 74% 19 26%
   Less than $20,000 16 100% 0 0%
   $20,000 - $39,000 28 67% 14 33%
   $40,000 - $59,000 34 85% 1 15%
   $60,000 - $79,000 26 93% 2 7%
   $80,000 - $99,000 18 95% 1 5%
   $100,000 or more 25 60% 17 40%
Note: Percentages sum to 100% when added across the table from left to right


The Jersey Fresh program is a successful example of state-sponsored marketing which may be a useful model for other states. The results of this study suggest that high consumer awareness and acceptance of locally grown produce are possible. Consumers also believe positive differences in the freshness and quality exist between Jersey Fresh produce and other fresh fruits and vegetables. Produce displays and television advertisements appear to be the most successful means for educating consumers about locally grown produce. These findings should be useful to both existing state-marketing programs and in the development of new promotional programs. In particular, the cross tabulations are useful when designing marketing programs in other states because they provide insight on how certain demographic groups might respond to state marketing campaigns.


Adelaja, A. O., Nayga, Jr., R. M., & Schilling, B. (1994) "Returns to the Jersey Fresh promotional program -- An econometric analysis of the effects of promotion expenditures on agricultural cash receipts in New Jersey," Report submitted to the Division of Markets, Trenton, NJ New Jersey Department of Agriculture.

Govindasamy, R., Italia, J. & Thatch, D. (1999) "Consumer patronage of state-sponsored marketing programs: The case of Jersey Fresh," Southwestern Economic Review. 26(1).

Govindasamy, R., Italia, J., & Thatch, D. (1998a) "Consumer awareness of state-sponsored marketing programs: The case of Jersey Fresh," Journal of Food Distribution Research. 29(3), 7-15.

Govindasamy, R., Pingali, A., Italia, J., & Thatch, D. (1998b) "Consumer response to state-sponsored marketing programs: The case of Jersey Fresh," New Brunswick: New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, Rutgers University, [P-02137-2-98].

Maples & Ross, Inc., (1996) "Jersey Fresh Tracking Study." Trenton: New Jersey Department of Agriculture, Annual Report on Agricultural Statistics, 1991.

New Jersey Department of Agriculture, Trenton: Annual Report on Agricultural Statistics, 1986.

Patterson, P., Olofsson, H., Richards, T. & S. Sass, S. (1997) "Arizona Grown," NFAPP Newsletter, Archived at http://www.eas.asu.edu/~nfapp/html/aug97.htm.

*This project was funded by Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA through the Federal State Marketing Improvement Program.

The helpful suggestions of the anonymous journal reviewers enhanced the clarity of the presentation and are acknowledged. The review was coordinated by Len Calvert.