Insights from UK Smart Dairy Consumer Experiments

Walter Kiptoo Kiplagat and Annemie Maertens

Between June and November 2023, the UK Smart Dairy project team ran a series of fascinating consumer experiments at the University of Sussex’s behavioral laboratory. Our mission: to delve into the minds of dairy consumers in the UK, tapping into their preferences, values, knowledge on smart dairy technologies, and their stance on climate change. The digital questionnaire administered through Qualtrics also gauged their willingness to pay for milk produced using various technology bundles: technology-based, emission-based, and nature-based, for various levels of carbon emission reductions:  15%, 30%, 50%, and 100%.

The experiment was set up as a randomized controlled trial. The consumers were randomly allocated to three groups: A control group, a treatment group which received information on smart dairy via short videos, and a treatment group which received information on smart dairy via posters. In the analysis, we aim to analyze the impact of these treatments on the consumer’s willingness to pay, knowledge, values, and preferences. In our analysis, we further distinguish between the three technology bundles, recognizing that consumers might care about the process as well as the end result. Upholding the highest research ethics as set by the University of Sussex, including participant anonymity, our consumer experiments ran every Tuesday and Thursday at the Sussex Behavioral Lab throughout October and November, with participants happily dedicating an hour of their time to share their views.

Some notable highlights from our experience include:

  • Witnessing participants enthusiastically engaging in the lab sessions, sharing their thoughts on the subject matter. The pilot sessions in June were particularly fascinating, with participants expressing excitement about the research and a keenness to learn about smart dairy.
  • Challenges, too, were part of the experience. Our training was tested to the limit as we had to respond to a few inebriated participants during the Summer term, giving rise to an alternative registration strategy, allowing only pre-registered participants at fixed noon and after-school hours in the controlled environment of the Sussex University laboratory.
  • Our journey was a learning experience, from managing three sessions a day to overcoming unexpected power blackouts and system challenges. By the end of October, we became pros in dealing with room temperatures, crowds and IT.   

Stay tuned as we unveil the insights gleaned from these experiments, offering a unique perspective on the intersection of consumer behavior, smart dairy technologies, and sustainability in the dairy industry.






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