Research reports

Assessment of consumer perceptions, preferences and behaviors

Read the full report: Assessment of consumer perceptions, preferences and behaviors

Part 1: fluid milk from different packaging
Part 2: fresh and end of code milk

About:

This research was to work to understand consumers’ perceptions about various fluid milk products that are available in the market. This research looked at two variables related to milk and taste perception. The objective of the first part was to understand consumers’ expectations and evaluate the impact of a sensory experience upon perceived value of fluid milk in translucent high-density polyethylene (translucent plastic), white-pigmented high-density polyethylene (lightblock), and paperboard.  The objective of the second part was to understand consumers’ expectations and evaluate the impact of a sensory experience upon perceived value of fluid milk at the beginning and end of code.

Conclusion:

In part one milk in translucent plastic (exposure to light in dairy case) had higher trained panelist scores for the oxidized off-flavor attribute than paperboard packaging, but consumers did not notice a difference between milk from translucent plastic and paperboard upon tasting. Milk with a higher oxidized score did not receive significantly lower values ($) from consumers. Although consumers indicated no difference in value for packaging in early auction rounds, after learning about the impact of light on milk in translucent packaging and being offered a “Certified Fresh Taste” seal on milk protected from light, consumers’ values for lightblock and paperboard packaging with the seal significantly increased.   Behaviors and perceptions of milk in different packaging appear to be dictated by marketing of fresh taste rather than actual sensory. Although consumers could not detect a difference in flavor between packaging types they valued the idea of a fresher tasting product and would pay more for a visual “Certified Fresh Taste” seal after hearing about the impact of light on milk in different packaging.

In part two found that although many consumers go out of their way to buy the freshest milk, they cannot necessarily distinguish fresh milk from milk at the end of code; many consumers’ value for milk hinges on the idea of a farther out code date rather than actual perception of superior taste. Near end code date milk did not have lower trained panelist, consumer acceptability or consumer preference scores than fresh code date milk. Behaviors and perceptions of milk with a fresh and near end printed code date appear to be dictated by a convenience factor rather than a sensory experience.  The code date research showed that consumers’ value code dates, even if they do not fully understand them.  Although many consumers indicated that they go out of their way to buy the freshest milk, they could not actually distinguish fresh milk from milk at the end of code.

Outcomes:

This research can help the dairy industry understand consumer perceptions when purchasing milk. This can help milk producers make decisions regarding fluid milk and also help them identify areas of needed consumer communication.

Partners:

Midwest Dairy Association and Iowa State University