As part of its ongoing market research efforts, a Seattle-based company employs a dozen anthropologists and sociologists. Every one of them has a Ph.D. The researchers are accompanying consumers on their supermarket trips and peeking in their refrigerators and pantries during home visits, we read in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
As usual, anthropologists come up with surprising results to the marketers. Shopping is no economic but also an social activity. The most decisive factor in organic-food buying is not price.
Laurie Demeritt, the company's president, sums up some results:
"It's more about which product, what it means to the consumer and the value they attach. Here's an example: We will be shopping with a woman and she stops to put organic strawberries in her shopping cart. The strawberries cost $2 more than conventionally grown strawberries. The question is, why?"
The answer in this case was the woman was buying those strawberries for her children, and she had heard and read that strawberries have some of the greatest amounts of pesticide residues. (...) Just a minute later, the same shopper is passing on organic broccoli and putting a conventional bunch in her cart. Why, the researcher queries? The organic broccoli is only 50 cents more per pound. Because the woman said she was only buying the broccoli for her husband and 'he's toxic already. She didn't put the same value on the lack of pesticides."
Similarly, organic milk has its own buying logic. Demeritt said low-income mothers consistently buy organic milk for their kids even if the price is significantly more, nearing twice as much in some instances.
PS: Nearly at the same time two more articles on corporate anthropology appeared in the news How To Build A Better Product—Study People appeared in PCMag.com. It contains both many well known facts and some newer information, among others about INTELS research on "transnationals". And in the Toronto Star: Buyer beware: You're being watched. Anthropologists, sociologists and neurologists are feverishly studying how we shop