For a number of years, I've thought about creating a monthly survey to track consumer knowledge, concerns, and preferences for various food-related issues. After no small amount of effort, and thanks to the funding from the Willard Sparks Endowment and DASNR and the assistance of Susan Murray, that vision has now become a reality.
The inaugural issue is now up online, and we will to follow with regular monthly releases.
Of course, this initial issue can't report changes , but that information will come.
For those who might be interested, the purpose of the project is to provide timely information on:
- Indices of consumer sentiments on (or beliefs about) the safety, quality, and price of food consumed at home and away from home.
- Indices of consumers' anticipated demand for various meat products consumed at home and away from home.
- Awareness of food-related issues or events that could affect demand.
- Emerging policy or marketing issues.
It is envisioned that such data could be used by analysts to:
- Construct and analyze trends in beliefs, demand, and awareness
- Forecast changes in consumption
- Compliment (i.e., merge with) existing sources of secondary data (e.g., USDA disappearance or scanner data) in food demand analysis
Some of the motivations for starting the project include the following.
- Although scanner data is available to analyze immediate past behaviors, it is inherently backward-looking. A consumer survey can be devised to be forward looking, potentially providing better forecasts. Moreover, analyzing demand using scanner data is tricky due to issues of supply shifts, endogeneity, unobserved quality variation, promotions, etc that can be overcome with a well-designed survey.
- Current meat demand indices are aggregate, quarterly, assume a constant demand elasticity, and attribute all price/quantity changes to shifts in demand; a survey is more rapid and can better isolate demand-side issues.
- Existing surveys of consumers (i.e., panel diaries or home scanning data) only focuses on at-home food consumption; away from home food consumption now accounts for just under half of all food expenditures.
- Although some marketing companies routinely track eating intentions and awareness of food issues, the data is proprietary and is not publically released in any uniform fashion. Moreover, their survey questions are not always designed using state-of-the-art techniques in consumer research.