Marshall, Minn. — AURI recently commissioned the Southwest Marketing Advisory Center to assess manufacturer and consumer attitudes about using and buying bioproducts to determine current and future demand.

“We wanted to get a better understanding of why people would or would not use bio-based products,” says Mike Rich, SMAC executive director.

Soy-based inks

While only a minority of surveyed manufacturers produce bioproducts, those who do have experienced increased demand and plan to produce more. Consumers said they need to know more about the advantages and what’s available. If they are available and equal in price and quality, consumers are likely to buy more eco-friendly products, the survey showed. Most agreed that besides environmental benefits, supporting agriculture is a purchasing incentive.

Results also showed that marketing will be key and advertising the bio-advantage could support industry growth.

Manufacturers’ response

Surveys were mailed to 1,000 Minnesota manufacturers that could be potential bioproduct users — either in the manufacturing process or end product — with a 10 percent response. Only one-fourth said they currently produce bioproducts. But of those that do, 55 percent said they’ll keep up bio-production and 41 percent plan to produce more bioproducts. Almost 40 percent said they started making bioproducts because of consumer demand and 47 percent said bio-based products have increased their sales. A majority of biomanufacturers said the industry needs more technological development. Bio-based lubricants

Of all manufacturers surveyed, 71 percent said consumer demand would impact future bioproduct industry growth; 52 percent said legislation and 43 percent said new-market development would impact growth. Only 24 percent said they needed assistance with product development; 43 percent said market assessments would be beneficial.

Biomanufacturers’ response

A smaller group of 60 manufacturers, known to produce bioproducts, were also surveyed — with the highest response rate of 18 percent. About 55 percent of respondents’ customers are distributors, serving businesses, households and retailers.

Most said they had seen sales increase over the past two years and 64 percent said their bio-production would increase in the next year — the rest planned to continue at current levels. Consumer demand and desire for more environmentally-friendly products will grow the industry, 91 percent said. Also, 64 percent said a desire for the competitive edge will drive the industry.

Bioproducts increased the business of 82 percent of biomanufacturers; 73 percent said superior- quality fueled sales as well as eco-benefits.

Most biomanufacturers said they could use assistance — primarily with marketing and secondarily with product development, technology and government assistance.

Consumer response

Surveys were randomly mailed to consumers in five counties — Ramsey, St. Louis, Olmsted, Blue Earth and Polk — with a 9 percent response. Respondents were primarily male (77 percent), older (68 percent age 56 or older), and about split between urban/suburban and rural/small town upbringings.

About 93 percent were Caucasian, 77 percent married and 65 percent college or postsecondary graduates with an average income of $66,700.

Bio-based building materials

About 57 percent said they were knowledgeable or very knowledgeable about bioproducts, but only 41 percent said they use bioproducts. Of those, 63 percent said it was because they were environmentally friendly and 58 percent because they use less fossil fuels.

A solid majority (63 percent) correlated bio-based products with fuels; 71 percent said they perceived bioproducts as being environmentally friendly. Respondents were neutral about using bioproducts if the price was the same but quality was lower than petroleum-based counterparts. More were agreeable to using equal-quality bioproducts priced slightly higher. However the majority, increasing with the respondents’ age, would purchase bioproducts only if the price and quality were the same.

About 95 percent said they would purchase quality, competitively-priced bioproducts if available — most out of concern for the environment but support for agriculture was also a major benefit.