Identification and characterization of fluid milk consumer groups

J Dairy Sci. 2018 Oct;101(10):8860-8874. doi: 10.3168/jds.2018-14855. Epub 2018 Aug 9.


Consumption of fluid milk has steadily declined over the last few decades. Understanding the attributes of fluid milk products that are attractive to specific consumer groups may provide a sound basis for education and marketing to encourage increased dairy consumption and reverse the downward trend. The objective of this study was to identify the attributes of fluid milk that specific consumer groups find attractive and attributes that suggest a higher purchase likelihood. An adaptive choice-based conjoint (ACBC) survey was designed to assess attributes of fluid milk. The ACBC survey included Kano, importance, labeling identification, and beliefs questions to determine the key attributes that dictated consumer purchase and consumption. Self-reported purchase habits and attitudes for organic food products were also collected. Attributes in the ACBC exercise included fat content, package type, shelf life, and label claims. Maximum difference scaling was used to rank the importance of attributes in fluid milk that affected purchase. Maximum difference scaling was also used to rank qualities and issues associated with organic milk that were most motivating for those who identified as organic milk consumers. Results were analyzed by univariate and multivariate statistics. A total of 1,163 fluid milk consumers completed the survey, and of those, 434 were regular purchasers of organic milk. The ideal fluid milk from conjoint analysis was 2% milkfat, organic, packaged in a plastic jug, conventionally pasteurized, and contained no additives or label claims. The belief that "organic milk is healthier" was the most important motivator for purchases of organic milk, followed by the beliefs that "organic milk production encourages ethical treatment of animals" and "organic milk production supports local farms and farmers." Conjoint importance scores of all fluid milk consumers showed that milkfat content was the most important attribute, followed by flavor, package size, and price. For all milk consumers, designation as organic was ranked as the 8th most important of 14 attributes. Evaluation of these results on both aggregate and individual levels suggest that fluid milk consumers are not a homogeneous consumer group and that underlying consumer groups are led to purchase decisions by specific product features or expectations.

Keywords: Kano; conjoint analysis; maximum difference scaling; milk; organic milk.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Beverages
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Consumer Behavior*
  • Dairy Products / analysis*
  • Food Preferences / psychology*
  • Milk*
  • Perception
  • Taste