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Exploring the gap between
attitudes and behaviour
Understanding why consumers buy or do not
buy organic food
Organic Research Group, Institute of Rural Sciences, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, UK, and
Countryside and Community Research Unit, University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham, UK
Purpose – The purpose of the paper is to explore the values that underlie consumers purchasing decisions of organic food.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper draws on data from focus groups and laddering interviews with a total of 181 regular and occasional consumers of organic food that were contrasted with survey results of other studies.
Findings – The results show that most consumers associate organic at ﬁrst with vegetables and fruit and a healthy diet with organic products. Fruit and vegetables are also the ﬁrst and in many cases only experience with buying organic product. The decision-making process is complex and the importance of motives and barriers may vary between product categories. Research limitations/implications – While further research would be required to facilitate full understanding of the consumer-decision making process with regard to organic produce, this work indicates the complexity of the process and the likelihood of variation between different product categories. Future research should consider tradeoffs that consumers make between values and product as well as consumer segmentation.
Originality/value – Prior research concerning the consumer decision-making process with regard to organically produced food is limited. Theses ﬁndings have implications for future sector-based communications to consumers and, potentially, for product development and labelling. Keywords Organic foods, Purchasing, Consumer behaviour, United Kingdom Paper type Research paper
The UK has one of the leading organic markets in Europe and worldwide with an estimated value of £1.2 billion in 2003 or, about half the size of the leading European market for organic food, Germany (SA, 1999; Richter and Padel, 2005). British Food Journal
Vol. 107 No. 8, 2005
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Financial support of the EU for the OMIARD project is gratefully acknowledged. The authors would also like to thank all our project partners in OMIARD that helped develop the methods, and all participants and their colleagues who helped with organising and conducting the ﬁeld work in various locations, Peter Midmore, Catherine Seymor, Sensory vision in Reading, Hilke ¨
Barghaus, Michaela Bahr and Pascal Desmond.
Certiﬁed organic land area in the UK has also increased considerably over the last few years, but in 2003 declined for the ﬁrst time from 724,523 in 2002 to 695,619 ha. This is likely to be a reﬂection of changes to certiﬁcation requirements in Scotland – all producers are now required to certify both land and stock, whereas before livestock could be exempt. However, it could also be a reﬂection of problems that organic producers experienced in the market particularly in relation to milk and meat, where, depending on product type, only 60 to 80 per cent of organic production is sold under organic labels with the remainder going into conventional channels (Hamm and Gronefeld, 2004). Although demand for organic food is still buoyant, there are signs that markets are maturing and growth rates over the last few years have slowed to below 10 per cent (Firth et al., 2004; MINTEL, 2003; Organic Monitor, 2001; Organic Monitor, 2002; Smith and Marsden, 2004; SA, 1999). Smith and Marsden (2004, p. 355-356) have suggested that the slow down might be placing limits on the potential of...
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