We conducted research at four seasonal farmers markets. Each market represented very different demographics but, surprisingly, provided very similar responses. The information turned out to be very clear and instructive to market managers.


We set up a stand at each market and asked visitors to fill out a 10 question survey that would help the market understand what they could do to serve customers better. The survey was hosted on Survey Monkey and delivered on a mobile device.


There are some key take aways that stood out and can be used to improve market sales: 

First, it was clear that the majority of market visitors come to market without a plan of what they want to purchase. (55%) or have a vague idea of what they want to purchase (40%). 

When they do make a purchase, most decide what they’ll do with the ingredients afterward. Only 24% made a meal plan and then purchased items for the plan.

An exciting take away had to do with the adventurous nature of the market visitors. Most of them look for opportunities (51%) or have a cautious desire (39%) to try new ingredients. This means they're open to new items from vendors.

Pie charts that depict buying behoavior at farmers markets

Almost all the visitors we surveyed indicated that getting recipes would be very helpful. (Extremely 31%, Very 46% and Somewhat 20%). They’d like to get them before they come to market (58%) or while they’re at market (37%).

But the most revealing data insight was that 75% of the market visitors said if they had recipes they'd buy more.

Bar Chart that show how important it is to recieve recipes at farmers markets

Pie chart that indicates a preference for recieving recipes before or at market

Bar chart indicating customers would buy more if they had recipes at market

We hope you find this information helpful and instructive. It's consistent with anecdotal observation and qualitative research we’ve conducted.

Several people have told us that they like buying at markets or from farmers directly but they pass by food that isn’t familiar because they don’t know if they'd like it or how to prepare it.  I’ve observed the hesitation many times over as people walk past vendors but don't engage the venfor or buy. Sometimes they do but it'll be a small commitment. Here’s an example you may relate to – A market visitor walks up to a stand and picks up a kohlrabi. He asks the farmer what it is. She tells him and gives some basic cooking instructions. He feels adventurous and decides to buy one. The transaction is completed and the customer leaves. The End.

This is a missed opportunity.


Food producers and markets should be capturing customers information for follow up. But don't expect them to give you their email just to be added to a list. They're more likely to do so if they know they'll get value in return.

Customers are eager to buy and try new ingredients but need support and help. Our survey clearly indicated that having recipes for market ingredients before they come to market would lead to more purchases. For many who want to eat locally produced food this will be a good reason to part with contact information. It will also remind them to come to market. 

If you're wondering why you should add this extra layer of effort, consider the real life example scenario with the customer who bought one kohlrabi. The customer was willing to try something and made a small purchase. By capturing his contact information you have an opportunity to nuture the relationship so they returned to market again. 

Chances are the customer will increase their purchase volume on subsequent visits. Repeat customers in general spend up to 30% more than first time customers. As customers gain experience with you, trust will be built, and they’ll become confident using the products sold at market. This will lead to repeat business and larger purchases. This is why marketers and financial professionals will tell you that a new customer costs 5 times more to acquire than it does to get repeat sales from an existing customer. Just retaining 5% more of your customers will increase profits by 25-95%

At minimum, you should capture leads and create an email list. Then send an email ahead of the market day to tell your customers what will be available at market and provide them with some ideas for preparation.  Ideally you'll send a follow up note to thank them for stopping by the market and include something of value like a recipe, discount or informational tip. 

Culineer is a community-based marketing platform designed to help producers and markets engage and retain more customers. We’re here to help you improve customer support without spending a lot of time. 

We’re on a mission to help home cooks be more successful with locally produced food and to help your business thrive.

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