Consumer preferences for imported versus domestic apples are being investigated by a final year BSc (Hons) Agri-Business student.
Poppy Rawlings, 23, from rural north-Northumberland was inspired to examine the issue by her fresh-produce module in second year and placement year experience, having been undecided about what route she wanted to take for her final year Honours Research Project.
She said: “I chose this topic as I am fascinated by the constant conversations held around the produce we eat and its origin.
“There are so many upsides and downsides of importing produce and I want to use this to gain a better understanding of the reasoning behind it, why it may hold some justification or, in the case that it does not, how we can reduce our reliance on imports.”
As part of her data collection process, Poppy circulated a questionnaire to understand both economic and non-economic factors that might influence consumers’ decisions to purchase imported apples. She will also hold interviews with industry professionals to help gain a deeper understanding of the subject area.
She added: “I am now excited to explore lots of different fruit categories. My HRP looks into consumer preference for domestic versus imported apples, and after graduation I am going to start working with soft fruit.”
Poppy, who had originally come to Harper Adams with after spending a gap year working with an Australian beef herd, credits her placement year with fruit importers, AM FRESH UK, for opening her eyes to other possibilities in the agri-food sector.
She added: “The experience has given me the realisation that I actually want to work in the world of fruit import and export.
“My roles on placement surrounded the citrus category, which is very focused on high volumes of product.
“Studying at Harper Adams is enlightening. Never did I expect for my interest to turn from livestock, nor did I expect to find my passion!
“It has been a great environment to learn and the dedicated teaching staff and all those around them give such a great insight into the agricultural industry as a whole.
“The real links with industry professionals is invaluable, especially through the placement year. I hope that other students feel the same way too. Studying here will definitely stay with me for the rest of my career.”
Poppy was also given the opportunity to present her project as part of an undergraduate research conference for Food and Business students at Harper Adams in February.
“I really enjoyed presenting at the conference. I love speaking in public and was excited to see that people were engaging with the presenters. I used a Mentimeter to see what the audience’s favourite apple varieties were – and lots of people participated! This also gave me a new question to put into the questionnaire.
“It was also a great opportunity to get feedback from lecturers I otherwise would never have engaged with (mainly due to them being in a different subject area to my course). It has also taught me that I need to start going free from a script – I have an interest to show, I just need the confidence to go without notes!”
As she comes towards the end of her studies, Poppy is reflecting on her time at Harper and how she managed to juggle her busy final year schedule.
She said: “Fourth year has been a very big challenge adjusting back to academic life post-placement year and I found it quite hard to balance the weight of HRP along with my assignments at first, but now I have got myself into a sort of routine whereby I can chip away at it each day. Luckily all of my assignments are handed in now, so I have plenty of time to concentrate on it.
“Aside from balancing time, however, the process has been so interesting. There are constant twists and turns when reading into the surrounding literature, so much so, my own view on the topic has changed countless times!
“I have also enjoyed how all-encompassing it has become, due to my desire to work in the industry. I am constantly checking apple products when I go shopping and I have even travelled to Berlin to the Fruit Logistica trade fair, where I met many apple growers and marketers from across the globe. It was also here that I set up the conversations around my grad job.”