Food Demand Survey (FooDS) - April 2016

The latest edition of the Food Demand Survey is now out.

From the regular tracking portion of the survey:

  • Willingness-to-pay for all food products was down this month, with the largest drop occurring for hamburger;
  • The was a sizable uptick in consumers' anticipation of price increases for beef, pork, and chicken and a slight reduction in planned purchases of these items;
  • Expenditures on food away from home were up about 5%; and
  • We added "cancer and meat consumption" to the list of, now, 18 times for which we track awareness and concern.

Three new ad hoc questions were added this month.

The first set of questions was meant as follow-up to a survey Politico recently conducted of "food experts" (I was a participant in their survey).  Politico asked the following question to the experts: "Are the presidential candidates doing a sufficient job in the campaign discussing the future of food policy?" A whopping 97% said "no".  

I posed a related question to the respondents of FooDS.  Rather than just asking about the issue as a stand alone question, I put food an agricultural policy in the context of other issues candidates spend their time talking about.  In particular, participants were asked: “Are the presidential candidates spending too much or too little time discussing each of the following issues?”  

A list of nine issues was provided, which included “food policy” and “agricultural policy.”  Only about 6% of respondents thought too much time was being spent on the two issues.  44% and 46% thought about the right amount of time was being spent on agricultural and food policy, and 50% and 47% thought too little time was spent on agriculture and food, respectively.  

Immigration policy was the only issue for which more respondents thought candidates were spending too much vs. too little time.  Except for food and agricultural policy, the largest fraction of respondents thought the candidates were spending the right amount of time on the other issues.  


Secondly, we asked another question - this time exactly as it was asked in the Politico food-expert survey.  In particular, participants were asked “Should the government’s role in regulating the US food system be more active, less active, or the same?”  Here, our respondents lined up closely with Politico's food experts:  

Over half of the participants (59%) believe that the government should become more active in regulating the US food system, while less than 13% of participants believe the government should be less active in regulating the US food system.  This is consistent with other research that suggests consumers tend to be rather "statist" when it comes to food policy.

Finally, based on a suggestion from Jason Winfree at University of Idaho, who passed along an article about the (sometimes unjustified) negative perceptions of frozen food,  respondents were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with a list of nine statements related to the tastiness, affordability, and health of fruits and vegetables that are either fresh, frozen, or canned.  

In terms of taste, fresh rated higher than frozen, which was rated higher than canned.  All three had a mean score above 3, meaning respondents were more likely than not to agree that all three types of fruits and vegetables were tasty.  In terms of affordability, the ranking was exactly reversed with canned being perceived as most affordable and fresh least affordable (although all three were far about the mean of 3, implying most consumers though all three were affordable.  Finally, perceived health lined up almost exactly with perceived tasted: fresh was perceived as healthier than frozen which was perceived healthier than canned.