Two separate consumer-marketing studies were conducted between 30 Oct. and 2 Dec. 2002 to determine consumer awareness and potential demand for edamame [Glycine max (L.) Merrill]. The first study consisted of a sensory evaluation that included 113 participants who tasted and rated three edamame cultivars based on firmness and overall appeal and then ranked the beans in order of preference at The Pennsylvania State University, University Park Campus. To estimate demand, the participants answered questions regarding their likelihood to purchase edamame after the sensory evaluation. The second study, a telephone survey, was administered by a marketing firm to determine consumer awareness of edamame as well as their produce purchasing habits. Responses were collected from 401 consumers within the Metro-Philadelphia area. Consumer reaction to the sensory evaluation was positive, and after reading about the health benefits, a majority of consumers (92%) indicated they would likely purchase edamame and serve it in a meal whereas 89% gave this response after only sampling the edamame beans. When responses were compared among cultivars, overall liking for 'Green Legend' (6.29; 1 = extremely dislike; 9 = like extremely) was significantly lower than for 'Kenko' (6.84); however, neither cultivar was significantly different from 'Early Hakucho' (6.62). Participants also rated 'Kenko' as having a firmness that was 'just about right'. Verbal comments from participants leaving the evaluation site included interest in purchasing edamame and inquiries as to where it could be purchased in the vicinity of the university. Telephone survey participants also expressed a willingness to purchase edamame and serve it in a meal after hearing about the potential health benefits (66%). Based on consumer responses to selected telephone survey questions, three distinct marketing segments were created. Potential purchasers (58% of participants), consisted of consumers who were more likely to consider the importance of the nutritional content of vegetables they purchased (73%), included the greatest percent of consumers who had purchased soy or soy-based products (70%), and were very likely (51%) and somewhat likely (46%) to eat edamame after learning about the health benefits. The second largest segment of participants characterized as unlikely edamame eaters (22% of participants) consisted of individuals who were very likely (20%) and somewhat likely (43%) to purchase vegetables they had never eaten before if evidence suggested that it might decrease the risk of cancer and/or other diseases. However, within this group, none of the participants were either very likely or somewhat likely to eat edamame after being told about the health benefits. The last group, characterized as requires convincing (20% of participants), consisted of individuals who were the least likely to base produce-purchasing decisions on the nutritional content of vegetables. After learning about health benefits specific to edamame, 8% of these participants were very likely and 48% were somewhat likely to eat edamame. Hence, separate marketing strategies may need to be developed to target these distinct segments based on interest in eating edamame, importance of nutritional information, and current vegetable purchasing habits.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes