University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Division of Agriculture


Consumers vote every day on which products line the shelves of grocery stores, co-ops, and niche markets. Public unrest with regard to the environmental, animal welfare, food purity, and human health impacts of agricultural production practices have led to the rise of unconventionally produced (UP) food products. While the sales of UP foods is increasing, studies regarding the qualities of such products that impact consumer purchases have yielded inconsistent results. This study examined students’ perceptions of sensory aspects of conventionally produced (CP) and UP foods to better understand how sensory aspects impact decisions to purchase. Students reported consistent perceptions regarding the favorability of each sensory aspect of chicken and apples; the UP versions of the products yielded higher mean scores on every sensory aspect. However, students’ perceptions of the sensory qualities of chocolate, milk, and beef were not consistent; for example, they reported more favorable perceptions of the appearance and smell of CP milk, but perceived a more favorable texture and flavor from the UP milk. The results of this study imply that when making purchasing decisions, consumers may value specific sensory attributes over others. One approach to marketing UP products is to focus on valued extrinsic aspects designed to attract consumers to purchase products even though they may have less favorable perceptions of certain sensory qualities.