Survey Data Provides Unique Market Insight on Propane Customers in Rural America


Download Survey Data Provides Unique Market Insight on Propane Customers in Rural America  

Washington, D.C. (March 16, 2007) –  According to the U.S. Census, nearly 26 percent of all households, or 69 million people, now live in rural America, which is defined as residences not within an incorporated city, town, or village. Recognizing that this is a growing segment of the population, the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) recently invested in a Rural Lifestyle Survey conducted by the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) and Ag Media Research to learn more about “rural lifestyle residents.” The research was also supported by the American Farm Bureau Federation and J.L. Farmakis Inc.

 The NAFB Rural Lifestyle Survey data was collected through interviews with residents from 2,000 households in the 48 contiguous states that live in the rural lifestyle segment of the population defined by the U.S. Census.  This subset of the population is much larger than the roughly 2 million farmers and ranchers measured by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in today’s U.S. producer marketplace.

 According to the survey, about 25 percent of these residents use propane for heating their homes or outbuildings. The survey also showed that as the number of acres owned increased, it was more likely that propane was being used on the property.

 “The NAFB survey was valuable because it provided new insights on this growing segment of the population, how they use propane and the most effective ways to reach them,” said PERC Director of Agriculture Programs Mark Leitman.

 Through its sponsorship of the Rural Lifestyle Survey, PERC submitted questions on the specific uses of propane in rural America.   The study found that the majority of respondents used propane for grilling (43 percent), hot water heaters (22 percent), torches for welding and repair work (7.6 percent), and generators (5.5 percent). 

The survey also collected extensive data about the ownership of companion and livestock animals, plans to construct outbuildings, rural-based retailer preferences, and way-of-life information sources. A majority of the rural households surveyed live on three or more acres and raise companion horses and additional livestock, own tractors, and are active buyers of country-living products and services. More than 30 percent of those surveyed had plans to make major improvements to their home or outbuildings in the near future.

"The demographic and market data we have assembled substantiates this tremendous and very diverse segment of consumers," said Roger Olson of Rural Lifestyle Media (Hudson, WI), who worked with NAFB on the project. “This is not the farm market - this is a huge and varied consumer group that has its own needs, preferences, and interests. We are only discovering the tip of the iceberg."

 Other key findings and insights from The NAFB Rural Lifestyle Report:

• Residents are not just in "C" and "D" counties as defined by U.S. Census household counts and metropolitan proximity (Nielsen Media), but are also on acreage in outlying "urban circles" within "A" and "B" counties.

• Stereotypes of low income, small market size, low employment, and limited disposable income - "myths of this market," says Olson - are unfounded; in fact, income level for many exceeds the U.S. Census median income of $44,684.

• Consumption of radio programming is strong, with 51 million rural lifestyle adults being frequent listeners, and there is a marked appetite for traditional agricultural news (including weather and markets).

A PowerPoint presentation on the results of the survey is available on PERC’s agriculture website at or on PERC’s Marketing Resource Center or MaRC (

PERC’s vision in agriculture is that, by 2010, the agricultural industry will recognize propane as a preferred energy source offering exceptional value. This value is achieved through a unique combination of product benefits, including cost-effectiveness, efficiency and productivity, reliability, portability, and environmental friendliness.

For more information on PERC and its programs to promote the safe and efficient use of propane in agriculture, call (202) 452-8975 or visit