Fresh milk represents a major type of dairy product in China, while it remains at a low level in terms of consumption. Consumers’ preferences are a crucial factor determining consumers’ attitudes and behavior towards fresh milk consumption. However, little is known about what drives consumers’ preferences for fresh milk. This study intends to fill this gap based on a survey with a sample of 1248 respondents in ten cities in China. The best–worst scaling (BWS) method was employed to measure the importance of different attributes that consumers consider when selecting fresh milk. The BWS result indicates that safety certification, shelf-life, and nutrition were ranked as the most important attributes of fresh milk, whereas origin, purchasing location, and package were found to be the least preferred attributes. Furthermore, the study also explored heterogeneities by dividing all samples into a developed area and a less developed area, and a latent class model (LCM) was then applied to classify consumers based on their preferences and demographics in these two areas, respectively. In developed areas, consumers were divided into “Safety First” and “Taste Sensitive”, and Gender
were significant determinants of class membership. In less developed areas, consumers were classified as “Quality Sensitive” and “Brand Sensitive”, while Education
, and Health condition
were significant determinants of class membership. The findings might be useful for the government in terms of encouraging dairy companies to implement safety management certification, and suggest that companies should design differentiated strategies in different areas.
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