New levy-funded research into pear consumer attitudes and perceptions will underpin refreshed Australian Pear branding and marketing reports Hort Innovation Marketing Manager Apple and Pears Olivia Grey.
Following a tender process, research agency Fifty-Five Five has been engaged by Hort Innovation to undertake marketing levy-funded consumer research for the pear industry.
One of the recommendations made at the Apple and Pear SIAP meeting in October 2018 was to refresh the consumer branding and positioning of Australian Pears. As part of this process, it is necessary to conduct a thorough piece of research that will underpin the development of the three-year strategic marketing plan, set in place updated positioning and communications, and prioritise target audiences for marketing activities.
The results of this research will be a foundation for the development of the brand creative and a more strategic and targeted approach to domestic marketing. It is important to gain an understanding of how Australian Pears are perceived, purchased and consumed in Australia and what opportunities there are to grow demand.
The intended outcomes of this consumer research include:
- Improved understanding of consumer and shopper usage, perceptions and attitudes, and the product attributes each consumer segment values most
- Insights to inform the development of a new brand/tone of voice/marketing message/campaign for Australian Pears
- Sharing market knowledge and insights across the value chain to inform business decisions
This research will be used in conjunction with MT17015 – Consumer behavioural data for fresh produce (Nielsen Homescan) and will allow actual behaviour to be compared with consumer perceptions.
The project helps deliver against the SIP Outcome 2 – ‘Growing demand in both domestic and export markets has increased the value of the marketable harvest’. It will specifically contribute to Strategy 2.2 – ‘Improve consumer eating experience by better understanding consumer needs (market research) and developing industry responses to the factors impacting quality in every part of the supply chain.’
The research will use a multi-stage methodology:
- Kick off (completed): work with an industry project reference group consisting of Olivia Grey, Peter Hall and Craig Chester to confirm research objectives and deliverables and align on research design
- Qualitative research – in-store intercepts (completed): two half-day store visits across different retailers and areas in Sydney, the aim of which was to capture “in the moment” insight on pear purchase behaviour and to aid in input into the quantitative questionnaire design. Different stores were targeted at different locations to ensure a good cross section of shoppers e.g. families, millennials/SINKS/DINKS, high, middle and low income etc. Approximately 80 store intercepts were conducted over the two half days in the following locations:
- Marrickville metro NSW: Woolworths and Aldi
- Parramatta Westfield NSW: Woolworths and Coles
- Quantitative research: 15-minute online survey of 1000 participants (complete end April 2019): This will measure awareness, purchase behaviour, attitudes and usage to identify opportunities and allow us to develop a set of distinct customer segments (WHO) and a set of distinct occasion segments (WHY) to identify clear opportunities.
- Final report: A final report will be available to all growers detailing the research.
An article summarising the research will also be published once the full activity has been completed, however some key insights from the store intercepts are included below.
- Buyers love the sweet flavour of pears, many preferring the sweetness to an apple.
- However, non-buyers have been put off by a bad experience of pears – describing them as “flavourless”, “dry”, “chalky” “grainy” and “bland”. Reliability is, therefore, a key issue for pears.
- There are two camps of pear buyers – some that love a soft, juicy pear, while others prefer a firm crunch (like an apple) – but all are still looking for the sweet flavour profile.
- The softness of pears can be a barrier as they spoil easily in a lunchbox or bag. Some shoppers actively look for firmer pears that will travel better.
- Soft pears are particularly enjoyed by kids and older consumers.
- For many, pears are not top of mind on their shopping list. Even for those with pears in their basket, they were not the first fruits they referenced or spoke about.
- In addition, pears were typically not highlighted in-store, which further enforced “out of sight, out of mind” issues.
Value for money:
- Generally, pears are considered good value – and recognised as cheaper than other fruits.
- In store prices of $3/kg were largely agreed to be a fair price, but they recalled them being dropped to as little as $2/kg.
- Families and high-volume buyers gravitated towards the larger bags of pears, or ‘odd-bunch’-branded bags of pears, which were perceived to present good value.
- There’s an inconsistent knowledge of how to judge if a pear is ripe, and of how to ripen a pear.
- Many squeeze the pear to test if it’s ripe, while some judge by colour change.
- There’s a perception that pears can quickly turn over-ripe, so are often bought to be eaten in the next few days. Heavy buyers will buy a range to avoid them going off and being wasted.
- Substitutability for apples sometimes when apples are cheaper. Placement in store further emphasises this with pears almost always sitting next to the apples display.
- Loose pears are most commonly purchased as you can pick how many you want (unlike punnets/bags which risks some going off).
- However, when in a rush, or heavy buyers, customers will opt for the punnets or bags as they don’t have time to check individual fruits for blemishes/colour. Customers will still check for consistency within bags.
- For some, canned pears are a convenient alternative.
Industry marketing initiatives are managed by Hort Innovation and are funded by the apple and pear marketing levy. Growers are welcome to contact Apple and Pear Marketing Manager Olivia Grey (firstname.lastname@example.org or 02 8295 2387) with any questions relating to the marketing program.