When consumer research data can be provided early enough, formulators have competitive advantage of speed to market, offering products consumers really want,” presented Anton Angelich, group vice president–marketing, Virginia Dare.

Virginia Dare conducted a 2007 consumer preferences study on traditional regional American culinary tastes. They believe consumers are more interested in all things local—including food supply, sustainability and culinary preferences. This inspired Virginia Dare to ask the following questions in a “2007 National Consumer Insights Survey:”

  • Familiarity and preference for American cuisines.

  • Familiarity and degree of concern about various food and nutrition issues.

  • Familiarity and interest in beneficial food ingredients.

  • Factors important in new food products.

  • Overall flavor preferences.

    Consumers were chosen from Virginia Dare’s database to represent a national profile. They were mailed a survey to be completed in May 2007. Over 300 surveys were returned from 23 states around the country. Respondents’ ages ranged from 16 to over 80; 64% were female and 36% were male.

    The highest percentage of respondents (40.8%) named Southwestern/Tex-Mex/Mexican as one of their favorite cuisines. BBQ came in closely behind at 37.6%. The top three cuisines respondents “have cooked at home” were BBQ (55% of respondents), Traditional American (55.2%) and Southwestern/Tex-Mex/Mexican (42.9%).

    The top two regional cuisines that respondents stated they “would like to try” are French Canadian at 24.5% and Native American/American Indian at 22.9%. Other cuisines ranked closely to each other—down to the more popular that most have already tried.

    The top two nutrition concerns that respondents were most concerned with were cancer reduction at 65.2% and food safety at 64.9%. The top two food issues were food freshness at 82.1% and pesticides/herbicides at 63.3%. The nutritional ingredients respondents were least familiar with were acai at 61.4% and polyphenols at 59.2%. The ingredients respondents would like to see added to their foods and beverages more frequently were vitamins (80.3%) and whole grains (74.3%).

    Still, ranking of importance of new product attributes showed that the top two were good taste at 96.9% and good nutrition at 88.7%. Less important attributes were trial coupons and similarity to other products. The top two favorite flavors found were chocolate (55.2%) and vanilla (37.9%).

    Flavor types relate specifically to regional American cuisines. For example, the top two cuisines respondents wanted to try are French Canadian and Native American. The former is related to maple, blueberry, apple raspberry, cherry, vanilla and chocolate flavors, while the latter brings to mind maple, pecan, caramel and honey. This information provides opportunities for new products that appeal to consumer interest in regional American cooking.

    For more information:

    Virginia Dare, Brooklyn, N.Y. 

    Paulette Kerner, 410-569-9766