(April 4) ORLANDO, Fla. — Shoppers in Chicago and Philadelphia buy and eat more sweet corn than anywhere else in the eastern half of U.S.

That fact and a slew of other findings can be found in a study recently released by the Southern Supersweet Corn Council, a group representing sweet corn growers and shippers in Florida and Georgia. The council is administered by the Orlando-based Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association.

Conducted last fall by the Florida Agricultural Market Research Center at the University of Florida, the survey included interviews with senior executives of 39 leading retail chains in the East, including Texas, and more than 1,000 consumer telephone interviews.

“We’ve characterized what our consumer looks like, and the data reinforce the desirability of our product,” said Charlie Matthews, who heads the council as FFVA’s director of marketing and membership. “This is the first time I’m aware of that something like this has been done with sweet corn.”

The study, which will help guide the council’s future promotional activities, revealed dramatic seasonal differences in buying patterns among consumers. Virtually all sweet corn-consuming households reported buying it in the summer, but just 36% said they buy it in the winter; 49% said they buy it in the fall; and 71% said they buy it in the spring. Overall, about two-thirds of respondents said they purchase sweet corn at least once a year.

Of those who said they don’t buy sweet corn at times other than summer, a majority said the reason was because the product wasn’t available.

According to retailers, sweet corn producers can lower their prices to encourage more advertising of the product from the fall through the spring. But, according to the survey, high prices were cited by only 5% of consumers as a reason not to buy sweet corn.

OTHER FINDINGS FROM RETAILERS:

  • In the next five years, white corn sales are projected to remain level while yellow corn is likely to suffer a significant decline. Yellow corn’s loss will be bicolor’s gain.


  • Green beans, potatoes, greens, broccoli and carrots were among items most often mentioned as being merchandised alongside sweet corn.


  • Common cross-merchandising tie-ins include butter, squeeze-bottle margarine, salt, corn skewers, spices and grilling items.



OTHER FINDINGS FROM CONSUMERS:

  • The proportion of sweet corn buyers increases with household size, income and education.


  • Nearly 75% of consumers prefer to buy sweet corn in bulk, while 16% prefer to buy it pre-packed and fully shucked. An additional 9% prefer it pre-packed and partially shucked.


  • African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians show a clear preference for yellow sweet corn.


  • Only between 4% and 8% of consumers cited “not locally grown” as a reason not to buy sweet corn.