August 1998 // Volume 36 // Number 4 // Research in Brief // 4RIB2

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Consumer Response To IPM-Grown Produce

A survey instrument was used by faculty members of Rutgers Cooperative Extension to determine likely consumer response to Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Produce. The objectives of the study were to document consumer willingness-to-purchase and willingness-to-pay for IPM grown-produce as well as existing knowledge of IPM. While awareness of IPM was low, over 71 percent of participants indicated that they would purchase IPM labeled produce. Only 12 percent indicated that they would be unwilling to pay a premium to obtain IPM-grown produce. Willingness-to-purchase IPM produce was found to increase with income and decrease with age. Females and higher earning households were among the most likely to pay a premium to obtain IPM produce.

Ramu Govindasamy
Assistant Professor and Marketing Specialist
Internet address:

John Italia
Program Associate

Daymon Thatch

Adesoji Adelaja
Associate Professor and Department Chair

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

Consumer aversion toward synthetic pesticide residues has been a top food safety concern since the late 1960s. To address health and sustainability concerns, integrated pest management (IPM) programs have been developed to decrease the net quantity of chemical pesticides required in many types of agriculture. IPM can reduce the amount of pesticide residues consumed by humans while not reducing yield or produce quality, particularly in fruits and vegetables. IPM uses biological, cultural, and natural pest predators as partial substitutes for synthetic pesticides. When chemical pesticides become necessary as a last resort, IPM seeks the most efficient usage possible.

IPM practices are safer and often less expensive than conventional agriculture and more cost effective on a large scale than organic production. While IPM is an imminently successful program that will play a significant role in the future of agriculture, few studies have analyzed relevant marketability or consumer response issues. This report summarizes two years of research aimed at empirically evaluating consumer response to IPM -grown produce.

The existing literature on consumer response to IPM consists largely of aggregate results and descriptive statistics. For instance, when polled, consumers have responded favorably to purchasing IPM produce. Hollingsworth, Pascall,.Cohen & Coli (1993) reported that 75% of respondents said they would purchase IPM-labeled produce over non-labeled produce if no price differential existed and 40% were willing to purchase IPM-labeled produce if it costs slightly more than non-labeled produce. Similarly, Burgess, Kovach, Petzoldt, Shelton & Tette (1989) found that 92% of consumers indicated they would buy IPM grown produce and Anderson, Hollingsworth, Van Zee, Coli & Rhodes (1996) found that 74% would prefer IPM-certified produce. However, nearly all previous studies have been limited in their scope because they did not document or estimate how specific demographic subgroups responded.

Burgess, Kovach, Petzoldt, Shelton & Tette (1989) found that few respondents (27%) to a 1989 survey in New York had heard of IPM, but when the concept was explained to them, they were receptive to spending 10% to 25% more for produce grown using IPM techniques. Many respondents indicated that they would even be willing to switch supermarkets to obtain IPM produce.

Morris, Rosenfeld & Bellinger (1993) also reported that the majority of consumers indicated that they would be willing to pay somewhat more for chemical-reduced produce, and that 79% would like more signs which labeled low-input produce. Ott, Huang and Misra (1991) found that while consumer support for chemical residue testing in fresh produce was strong, and 54% of those who indicated that pesticides usage was a food concern were willing to pay more to obtain pesticide free produce, the premium they were willing to pay was very low. Only about one tenth of the sample indicated they would be willing to pay more than an additional 10 percent.

Underhill and Figueroa (1996) attempted to explain differences in willingness-to-pay for IPM produce by socio- demographic characteristics. However, the explanatory variables in that study were limited to age, income, regional setting (i.e. suburban, urban) and a variable which captured the effect of having previous information about IPM. Underhill and Figueroa reported that younger individuals, higher earning individuals, and those who live in urban settings were the most likely to pay more for certified IPM produce.

Survey Administration

New Jersey consumers of fresh vegetables were surveyed in early 1997 to assess their attitudes and perceptions of several types of low-input agriculture. Overall, 408 surveys were physically distributed to respondents yielding a sample of 291 responses and a response rate of 71 percent. The survey was administered at five grocery retailers throughout New Jersey. The locations included three corporate supermarkets of various sizes, one independent supermarket, and a privately-owned direct market establishment. The survey was conducted during both weekend and weekday periods throughout the morning and afternoon hours. Respondents were approached at random while entering the retail establishment. Participants read and completed the questionnaire individually with no assistance from the survey administrator.

Consumers With Prior Knowledge of IPM

Because IPM produce is not typically labeled as such in retail establishments, few understand what it is. The survey found that only 31 percent of the sample had heard or read any news reports about IPM prior to participating in the study; however, a number of factors were found to be significant in predicting which participants were most likely to be familiar with IPM. Overall, education was the most significant determinant of having prior knowledge of IPM. Those who had completed at least a masters degree were at least 15 percent more likely to know about IPM than those who had not. Both those who had recently visited farmers markets and those who currently grew fresh vegetables for consumption in their homes were more likely to have prior knowledge of IPM than those who did not. Males were 11 percent less likely to have prior knowledge of IPM than females. The survey results also suggested that familiarity with IPM increases with annual household income. Additionally, those who made frequent use of food safety reports in the media were 10 percent more likely to have prior knowledge of IPM.

Willingness-to-Purchase IPM Produce

After reading a short definition of IPM, participants were asked if they would consider purchasing IPM-grown produce. Support for IPM was strongly demonstrated with 71 percent of the participants indicating that they would purchase IPM produce while 24 percent reported that they were not sure. Only 4.5 percent said that they probably would not purchase IPM-grown produce. Overall, 50 percent of the participants said they would even switch supermarkets to purchase IPM produce. Income was found to be highly significant in predicting which consumers would be most willing to purchase IPM produce. Households earning $30,000 to $70,000 annually were 14 percent less likely to purchase IPM produce than those earning more than $70,000. Similarly, households earning less than $30,000 annually were 26 percent less likely to purchase IPM produce than those earning more than $70,000.

Suburban residents were 17 percent more likely to purchase IPM produce than either rural or urban residents. Those who frequently visited farmers' markets were 11 percent more likely to purchase IPM produce than those who did not. The results also suggest that willingness-to-purchase IPM produce decreases with age. Those over 65 were found to be the least likely to purchase IPM grown produce when compared to other age groups. Participants who were the primary household shopper were 12 percent more likely to purchase IPM produce than those who were not. Those who believed that pesticides caused environmental damage and those who frequently purchased organic produce were more likely to purchase IPM produce than those who did not.

Willingness-to-Pay for IPM Produce

Participants were also asked if they would be willing to pay a premium to obtain IPM grown produce. Overall, only 12 percent of the sample indicated that they would be unwilling to pay any premium (Table 1). Approximately 39 percent of the respondents indicated a willingness to pay at least a 10 percent premium.

Table 1
Willingness-to-Pay for IPM-Grown Produce

Number of
Premium Respondents
> 20% premium 51 18.0%
15%-20% premium 19 6.7%
11%-15% premium 40 14.1%
6%-10% premium 69 24.4%
1%-5% premium 70 24.7%
no premium 34 12.0%

Males were found to be 13 percent less likely than females to pay the premium (Table 2). Age and income were also highly significant in predicting willingness-to-pay.

Table 2
Summarized Effects of Key Demographic Variables

Willing to Buy
IPM Produce
Willing to Pay
More for IPM
Male - less likely
Increasing Income more likely more likely
Increasing Age less likely less likely
Higher Risk Aversion - more likely

Those 35 and younger were at least 16 percent more likely to pay a premium for IPM-grown produce than those who were older than 35. Similarly, those with annual household incomes greater than $70,000 were at least 19 percent more likely to pay a premium for IPM produce. Both those with high risk aversions toward chemical pesticide use and those who frequently purchased organic produce were found to be more likely to pay a premium. The results also indicate that households with four or more individuals would be less likely to pay a premium for IPM-grown produce.


The results of this survey should provide valuable information for those developing marketing strategies for low- input agriculture. The participants indicated strong support for IPM through both a high willingness-to-purchase and willingness- to-pay. However, before the average consumer exhibits the same level of interest in IPM as the sample in this study, some mechanism must be developed to educate the public about IPM. Consumer recognition also necessitates a labeling system which, to date, has been difficult to establish.


Anderson, M., Hollingsworth, C., Van Zee, V., Coli, W. & Rhodes. M. (1996). Consumer response to integrated pest management and certification." Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment.

Burgess, R., Kovach, J. Petzoldt, C., Shelton, A., Tette, J. (1989). Results of IPM marketing survey: New York State IPM Program, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Geneva, Cornell University, Fingerlakes Research, NY.

Hollingsworth, C., Pascall, M., Cohen, N., & Coli, W. (1993). Support in New England for certification and labeling of produce grown using integrated pest management." American Journal of Alternative Agriculture, 8(2).

Morris, P. M., Rosenfeld, A., & Bellinger, M. (1993). What Americans think about agrichemicals. Public Voice for Food and Health Policy, Washington DC.

Ott, S., Huang, C., & Misra, S. (1991). Consumers' perceptions of risks from pesticide residues and demand for certification of residue-free produce. In J. Caswell (Ed.), Economics of Food Safety ed. Julie Elsevier, NY.

Underhill, S., & Figueroa, E. (1996). Consumer preferences for non-conventionally grown produce. Journal of Food Distribution Research, Vol. 27(2).

Note: This project was funded by Agricultural Marketing Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, through the Federal State Marketing Improvement Program.