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What Florida Buys — Regional

Click here to see:What we buy in South FloridaWhat we buy in Tampa/St. PetersburgWhat we buy in OrlandoWhat we buy in Jacksonville

- What are our favorite trucks and cars?
- Who smokes? Who's trying to quit?
-?Where do egg substitutes sell like hotcakes?

Consider the marshmallow, a treat that dates to ancient Egypt. Last year, Americans dropped nearly $125 million on marshmallows, flaming them on sticks over campfires or dissolving them in cups of steaming cocoa.

Floridians, however, do not love marshmallows. Residents in Jacksonville, the best marshmallow market in Florida, bought 16% fewer marshmallows per capita than the national average. South Florida is even less fond of the marshmallow, consuming 39% fewer marshmallows than the national average.

To plumb Floridians' buying habits, Florida Trend asked firms that track grocery sales, restaurant-dining habits, vehicle and boat registrations and consumer preferences to share their data. The results were puzzling (marshmallows); predictable (suntan lotion sells big everywhere in Florida, firelogs sell poorly in Miami); and insightful. While a list of the 10 best-selling vehicles statewide closely resembles that for the nation (the Ford F-150 pickup truck ranks as the No. 1 vehicle in both Florida and America), regional differences persist within Florida. A list of the 10 best-selling vehicles in Escambia County in the Panhandle and the same list for Broward County in southeast Florida share only six names, for example.

A caveat: Much of the consumer goods data you'll see here is based on supermarket sales, and low sales results for some product categories, such as blank videotapes, for example, may indicate only that Floridians don't buy them at supermarkets.

A second caveat: Percentages can mislead. Take this stat, for instance: Floridians are 36% more likely -- far more than the national average -- to own a foreign van. But the stat's value is tempered a bit when you realize the foreign van market is small. Only 3% of us drive a foreign van.

Finally, be wary of the base. South Florida is a lousy market for breakfast meats, with purchases 45% below the national average. Even so, sausage and bacon makers aren't about to skip south Florida; it may be below average, but it's still a $32.7-million market.

Readers can make their own guesses as to why hair-growth products do relatively poorly in the state. And why is south Florida far below the national average in anti-smoking products purchased at supermarkets? Is it because relatively few south Floridians smoke, because they don't care to quit or because they buy their nicotine gum somewhere else?

The marshmallow mystery appears to be a case of differences persisting among states even after decades of mass marketing. It turns out that the upper Midwest (the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin and such) are the prime marshmallow markets. Marshmallows have two big seasons and uses -- summer (around campfires) and winter (for holiday baking) -- that don't lend themselves to Florida living. Difficult to store and ship in climates with high humidity and heat, "they'll turn into a glob," says Mark Schuessler of Doumak Marshmallow in Illinois.

SOURCES-?Chicago-based Information Resources Inc. provided Florida Trend with supermarket sales figures from the state's four major markets. The data doesn't include sales at discount stores like Wal-Mart and Target. IRI uses UPC-scanner data to track dollar sales. The company compiles category development indexes that allow comparisons of sales in different-size markets with national sales. The company doesn't provide data on individual brands to nonclients but provided rankings of product categories in terms of how "developed" a category is compared to national averages.

-?Casselberry's AutoCountUSA provided data on vehicle purchases. It takes information from state motor vehicle departments in 30 states and performs statistical analysis for lenders and auto dealers on new- and used-vehicle sales made through franchised and independent dealers.

-?New York-based Scarborough Research shared its data on wine and vehicle preferences for the Jacksonville, south Florida, central Florida, Tampa Bay, treasure coast and southwest Florida markets. One of its data collection hubs is in Sarasota. It surveys local, regional and national consumer patterns and media usage by interviewing 200,000 adults annually. Its reports span a variety of topics.

-?Statistical Surveys, a Grand Rapids, Mich., company, sheds light on the state's boat purchases. It got its start tracking manufactured housing sales. Since then, it's branched into RVs and boats. The industry uses the information to analyze product market penetration.

SNAPSHOTFloridians ...-?Keep our homes clean. At the supermarket, we buy a lot of gloves.-?And bleach. -?And air fresheners.-?Elder-products, like denture-care goods and adult diapers, sell big.-?Likewise, suntan products.-?We prefer to send out for pizza. Pizza products sell poorly at the grocery store.-?Wine, however, sells big.
-?Florida is Ford Country. Four of the top 10-selling vehicles in the state are Fords. The Expedition, the giant SUV, is No. 9.-?We apparently have trouble sleeping. Is it the takeout pizza?Darden's View

Roger Thompson, senior vice president of strategic research for Darden Restaurants, the Orlando company that's parent to Olive Garden, Red Lobster and other chains, makes it clear that when it comes to comparing regions of Florida or Florida to other parts of the nation, "there are more commonalities than differences."

With that in mind, there are shades of difference. Dishes such as eggplant parmigiana and chicken Marsala sell better in southeast Florida than the Panhandle; lasagna sells better in the Panhandle.

Floridians order more appetizers; people in the Northeast order more desserts. Diners in Florida eat relatively more seafood than diners in other parts of the country. And Floridians order fewer beverages -- from liquor to soft drinks -- than patrons in the Northeast and order takeout meals more.

Gulp: Floridians buy outsized amounts of bottled water and sports drinks ("isotonics" is the supermarket category). It's a function of how much time Floridians spend boating and with other outdoor activities, says Miami marketing consultant Cynthia Cohen of Strategic Mindshare.

A craving for crustaceans -- Florida diners order more seafood than those elsewhere in the U.S.

Tarts and Flours
Floridians love cakes. Sales of baked goods rank high in all major Florida markets. But there are big differences among the markets in sales of the raw materials for baking -- flour, mixes, frosting, etc. Sales of those goods in south Florida, for example, are far below average. Tampa Bay does more baking, even though flour and frosting purchases are a bit low. But Jacksonville could be the baking capital of Florida. "As a state we like baked goods a lot," says University of Florida professor Erik Gordon, "but when it comes to actually baking, there's a real difference across the state."

A bit of good news for Big Citrus: We drink more than our share of juice in Florida. South Florida orange juice purchases are 68% above the national average. Tampa-St. Petersburg's per capita OJ consumption is 40% above the national average, while Orlando and Jacksonville are 37% and 35% above the national average, respectively.

The best OJ market in the nation? Connecticut, at 89% above the nation -- the only market better than south Florida. Boston, Philadelphia and Providence drink more OJ, relatively speaking, than the rest of the Florida markets, and New York is better than Orlando and Jacksonville.

Floridians prefer not-from-concentrate juice --- a reflection of our good taste, says the University of Florida's Erik Gordon. "We know the difference between the frozen juice and fresh juice," Gordon says.

Geography has a lot to do with where concentrate is king: Denver, Green Bay, Milwaukee, the Twin Cities, Portland, Salt Lake City and Seattle.

Less Bubbly
Floridians spend an average of $10 for a bottle of wine. In a three-month period, buyers in six Florida metros ran up $52.5 million in wine purchases. We favor blush or rose wines more than most buyers nationally. We're less likely than buyers nationally to buy champagne and sparkling wines.

Reflecting our makeup, wine purchasers here are 37% more likely than wine purchasers nationally to be older than 55.

BoatsTop 10 BrandsStatewide, 2002(at least 30 feet
long, fiberglass)
??1.??Sea Ray??2.??Contender??3.??Grady-White??4.??Wellcraft??5.??Intrepid??6.??Pursuit??7.??Carver??8.??Pro-Line??9.??Tiara10.??CenturySticker PriceFlorida consumers plan to spend $32 billion on new vehicles in the next 12 months, paying an average of $22,714. How do Floridians like our cars?- Elegant, with a tendency toward foreign makes. Florida residents are at least 19% more likely than the rest of the nation to own or lease a luxury vehicle. We're also above average for foreign cars. Only 5% of us own a domestic subcompact.- New. We are more likely than the nation to own a car less than 4 years old. When it comes to vehicles older than 11 years, we are 20% less likely than the nation to be driving one.- Traditional. Want to really stand out in the automotive crowd? Try the Honda Insight or Toyota Prius. Only 825 of these hybrid, gas-electric cars were sold in Florida last year. That's .055% of all the cars sold at dealerships in 2002.