More meaningful artisanal dining experiences with more information, research finds – UMaine News

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Food culture is growing in Maine as more consumers seek to know where their food comes from and how it ends up on their plate. If artisan food producers want their products to stand out from the crowd, new research from UMaine indicates that providing more product information is a good way to do it.

A business school in Maine to study published in the journal Sustainability examined how consumers expect different benefits from specialty foods compared to more typical or conventional foods. Specifically, researchers Erin Percival Carter, assistant professor of marketing at Maine Business School, and Stephanie Welcomer, professor of management at Maine Business School, found that specialty foods are more likely to be associated with a purpose, to a connection and meaning than their conventional counterparts. .

“A lot of information is designed to help farmers sell commodities in commodity markets,” Carter says. “But when I buy a nice wheel of artisan cheese from one of Maine’s amazing cheese makers, everything about my experience with that product is different from my experience with a more conventional everyday cheese. We wanted to dig deeper into the consumer psychology of specialty products and help producers figure out how to make products even more appealing to those consumers. »

Researchers conducted a consumer survey during the Maine Cheese Festival. Participants were asked to compare the experience of buying a “typical” cheese versus a “special” cheese. For both types of cheese, survey participants were asked if they were likely to read labels carefully, look for additional information beyond the packaging (e.g., from a website ); the extent to which the shopping experience is enhanced by the information; and how pleasant and meaningful the experience of buying and consuming the cheese was overall.

The results showed that consumers are more likely to read and appreciate information about ‘special’ cheeses than about ‘typical’ cheeses. Consumers also considered “special” products to be both more meaningful and more enjoyable, even if the information was only beneficial for generating benefits related to meaning and not pleasure.

Research suggests that to stand out and increase their profits, artisan cheesemakers and other producers should carefully craft personal and meaningful information about their products. For example, cheese makers could use cards near their cheese displays showing where the cheese comes from, when it was milked, and the process used to make it. The cards could direct consumers to a website, podcast, video series or social media account with more detailed information and personal stories from the cheesemaker.

“While many artisan producers feel pressured to emulate market leaders and embrace clean, stripped-down packaging, this type of packaging does not leverage the strengths of an artisan product,” says Percival Carter. “If you have a craft product, it’s important to think about the story of your product. Partnering directly with smaller scale producers in Maine to do this type of research specific to their strengths and challenges has been really exciting and I look forward to doing more in the future.

Contact: Sam Schipani, [email protected]

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