I '-ional Agricultural Trade and Policy Center
WHEN BUYING FRESH APPLES AND TOMATOES WILL
CONSUMERS PAY EXTRA TO HAVE COUNTRY OF ORIGIN
Athur Mabiso, James Sterns, John VanSickle, & Allen Wysocki
PBTC 05-03 August 2005
POLICY BRIEF SERIES
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
INTERNATIONAL AGRICULTURAL TRADE AND POLICY CENTER
THE INTERNATIONAL AGRICULTURAL TRADE AND POLICY CENTER
The International Agricultural Trade and Policy Center (IATPC) was established in 1990
in the Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences (IFAS) at the University of Florida
(UF). The mission of the Center is to conduct a multi-disciplinary research, education and
outreach program with a major focus on issues that influence competitiveness of specialty
crop agriculture in support of consumers, industry, resource owners and policy makers.
The Center facilitates collaborative research, education and outreach programs across
colleges of the university, with other universities and with state, national and
international organizations. The Center's objectives are to:
* Serve as the University-wide focal point for research on international trade,
domestic and foreign legal and policy issues influencing specialty crop agriculture.
* Support initiatives that enable a better understanding of state, U.S. and international
policy issues impacting the competitiveness of specialty crops locally, nationally,
* Serve as a nation-wide resource for research on public policy issues concerning
* Disseminate research results to, and interact with, policymakers; research, business,
industry, and resource groups; and state, federal, and international agencies to
facilitate the policy debate on specialty crop issues.
When Buying Fresh Apples and Tomatoes Will Consumers Pay Extra to Have Country of
Athur Mabiso, James Sterns, John VanSickle and Allen Wysocki
COOL in Fresh Produce
While disagreement continues over whether consumers value country-of-origin
labeling (COOL) of food products, Congress has introduced and deliberated several bills
that could make mandatory country-of-origin labeling (MCOOL) enacted law. As
stipulated in the agricultural marketing act of 1946 and amended in May 2002, COOL
will become mandatory for the fresh produce industry in September 2006 (U.S. Public
Laws, 2002). U.S. producers and marketers of fresh produce are, however, still unsure if
consumers are willing to pay a price premium for COOL and, if they are, how much they
will pay. In addition, it is not clear if the "U.S.A. Grown" label would fare well against
other country-of-origin labels.
Another issue up for debate concerns the factors that may be key determinants of
consumer willingness to pay (WTP) for COOL. A common hypothesis is that consumers'
food safety concerns, food preferences and perceptions about quality and standards are
key determinants of consumer WTP for COOL (Umberger et al., 2003). However, other
factors may have an impact on the WTP for COOL and this has not been tested
extensively (particularly in the fresh produce sector).
As U.S. producers of fresh apples and fresh tomatoes continue to contend with
rising import competition, various prospects of enhancing domestic demand for U.S.
fresh produce have been debated. One unexplored avenue is generic promotion of the
label "U.S.A. Grown." If consumers are willing to pay more for fresh produce labeled
"U.S.A. Grown" then promoting the label in the context of mandatory COOL policy
could be beneficial to U.S. producers. However, in order for generic promotion of the
label "U.S.A. Grown" to be plausible, its benefits would need to be shared across the
fresh produce industry and among all firms that take part in such a program.
Answers to these questions/issues are needed for more informed decision-making
by U.S. producers, marketers and policymakers. This paper specifically addresses these
issues surrounding COOL and presents research findings to empirically answer these
This paper summarizes findings from a study conducted in Florida, Michigan and
Georgia, by the International Agricultural Trade and Policy Center of UF/IFAS. Using a
Vickrey (fifth-price sealed-bid) auction in conjunction with a written questionnaire, data
were collected in November 2003 to January 2004. Specifically, the Vickrey auction
collected data on consumers' actual willingness to pay (WTP) for "U.S.A. Grown"
labeling in fresh apples and fresh tomatoes, while the written questionnaire solicited
information on some of the factors influencing this WTP for COOL. In total, 311
observations were collected and used for the study.
Findings of the study show that surveyed consumers were willing to pay an
average price premium of $0.48 for one pound of fresh apples labeled "U.S.A. Grown"
over an identical pound of fresh apples without a country-of-origin label. Similarly, the
surveyed consumers were found to be willing to pay an average price premium of $0.44
for one pound of fresh tomatoes labeled "U.S.A. Grown" over an identical pound of fresh
tomatoes without a country of origin label. It was also found that 79% of the surveyed
consumers were willing to pay some price premium for the fresh apples labeled "U.S.A.
Grown". In the case of fresh tomatoes, 66% of the consumers surveyed were willing to
pay a price premium for "U.S.A. Grown" labeling, over the fresh tomatoes without
When these average price premiums for fresh apples and fresh tomatoes were
tested for statistical equivalency, they were found to be equivalent. This implied that the
$0.04 difference was insignificant. Thus, it did not matter statistically what type of
produce was under consideration; consumers were willing to pay the same average price
premium for a "U.S.A. Grown" label on their fresh produce (when choosing between
labeled and identical but unlabeled fresh produce.)
As for the factors that determine consumers' WTP for the labeling "U.S.A.
Grown," it was established that consumers' concerns about food quality were prominent
determinants. Consumers who were more concerned about food quality were found to be
willing to pay more for produce labeled "U.S.A. Grown," implying that they view U.S.
fresh produce as having better quality than foreign fresh produce. In addition, the
consumers' location (i.e. state of residence) turned out to be a key determinant of how
much consumers would be willing to pay, as shown in Table 1. Consumers in Michigan
were willing to pay a considerably lower price premium than consumers in Georgia or
Florida. Interestingly enough, consumers in Georgia were found to be willing to pay
more for COOL in fresh apples than in tomatoes, while consumers in Florida exhibited
Table 1. WTP for produce labeled "U.S.A. Grown" by location
Gainesville, FL Lansing, MI Atlanta, GA Combined across
($/Lb) ($/Lb) ($/Lb) ($/Lb)
Apples 0.40 0.18 0.63 0.48
Tomatoes 0.68 0.19 0.38 0.44
The level of trust that consumers have for information they receive from U.S.
government agencies such as the FDA, USDA, EPA, etc. also turned out to be an
important determinant; similarly, consumers' food preferences (level of openness to
unfamiliar foods) was a statistically significant factor. Consumers who were more
trusting of the information they received from U.S. government agencies were likely to
pay a price premium for "U.S.A. Grown" labeling while those who were more open to
unfamiliar foods were less likely to pay. Consumer food safety concerns were also found
to be important. Consumers who rated themselves as more thoughtful about food safety
when purchasing fruits and vegetables were willing to pay more for produce labeled
"U.S.A. Grown." This implied that consumers viewed U.S. produce as safer. The
consumers' age was also found to be a significant variable, with older consumers less
willing to pay for the label "U.S.A. Grown."
In terms of country-to-country comparison, Table 2 gives a synopsis of the
findings that were made. Consumers had initially been asked to bid the price premium
they were willing to pay in order to exchange their unlabeled apples or tomatoes for
identical apples or tomatoes labeled "U.S.A. Grown." The average of this amount is
indicated in the first column of Table 2. The second column shows the amount that the
same consumers were willing to pay for produce labeled "U.S.A. Grown" after being told
where their unlabeled apples or tomatoes came from. Thus the difference between what
they were willing to pay before and after release of this foreign country information is
shown in the third column.
Table 2. Comparison of mean bids: U.S.A. Grown versus Other Country labels
Samples Number of
WTP for U.S. Label Mean Test Observations
Information Information ($ Lb)
U.S.A. Grown versus No label 0.48 -136
U.S.A. Grown versus Chile 0.42 0.41 -0.01 -0.240 59
U.S.A. Grown versus China 0.37 0.46 0.09 2.658 39
U.S.A. Grown versus New
Zealand 0.71 0.88 0.17 2.043 38
U.S.A. Grown versus No label 0.44 175
U.S.A. Grown versus Canada 0.34 0.38 0.04 1.475 67
U.S.A. Grown versus Mexico 0.58 0.93 0.35 4.432 86
U.S.A. Grown versus the
Netherlands 0.56 0.67 0.11 1.941 22
Note: Bold indicates statistical significance
Essentially, the third column displays how much more consumers were willing to
pay for produce labeled "U.S.A. Grown" compared to identical produce from the foreign
country that they were told their unlabeled produce came from. As shown in Table 2, in
most cases consumers were willing to pay more for fresh produce labeled "U.S.A.
Grown" over the foreign country fresh produce. Only in the case of Chilean fresh apples
versus U.S. fresh apples, were consumers willing to pay on average $0.01 less for a
pound of fresh produce labeled "U.S.A. Grown." However, this difference was
statistically insignificant (as shown by a t-value of -0.240). The difference in price
premiums for Canadian fresh tomatoes and U.S. fresh tomatoes was also statistically
insignificant, even though consumers proved to be willing to pay marginally more for
fresh tomatoes labeled "U.S.A. Grown."
Since different countries of origin were mentioned to different groups of
participating consumers, the sample size automatically became smaller for each direct
comparison of "U.S.A Grown" versus foreign country-of-origin. This information is
shown in the last column in Table 2. Consequently, these findings are less robust and
should be treated with caution. Further research with far larger sample sizes is needed in
order to substantiate these preliminary findings.
Several conclusions can be drawn from the findings made by the study. Firstly, U.S.
consumers were shown to be willing to pay a premium for fresh apples and fresh
tomatoes labeled "U.S.A. Grown," implying that they desire to know the origin of their
fresh produce. Thus, COOL is partially justified with respect to consumers' desire for
country-of-origin information; however, costs associated with implementing COOL need
to be calculated to see if they can be offset by the consumers' WTP.
Secondly, the study established that consumers' WTP for COOL in fresh apples
was statistically equivalent to that for fresh tomatoes. This suggested that consumers'
WTP for the label "U.S.A. Grown" is not produce-specific and may imply that generic
promotion of the label "U.S.A. Grown" would be a plausible way of enhancing domestic
demand for U.S. produce. The country-to-country comparison also showed that U.S.
consumers were willing to pay more for U.S. produce. Though preliminary, this finding
augments the concept that promoting the "U.S.A. Grown" label in fresh apples and
tomatoes would be beneficial to U.S. producers.
With respect to major factors of WTP for COOL, several were found, including
consumer food quality perceptions, food safety concerns, and regional differences within
the U.S. Most consumers viewed U.S. produce as safe and having better quality. This
implies that there is an advantage for U.S. producers if they promote the label "U.S.A.
Grown," because it could be developed into a recognizable image of high quality and
safety. Overall, "U.S.A. Grown" labeling in fresh apples and tomatoes was found to be of
value to U.S. consumers.
Umberger, W.J., Feuz, D.M., Calkins, C.R. and Sitz, B.M., "Country-of-Origin Labeling
of Beef Products: U.S. Consumers' Perceptions." Journal of Food Distribution
Research, 34(03) (2003):103-116
U.S. Public Laws, 2002, H.R. 2646 "The Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946", Sec.
bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=107 cong public laws&docid=f:publ 171.107.pdf,
queried and accessed July 28, 2005