A number of studies have explored the reasons why consumers plump for organic produce. These include concern for health and the environment, taste, availability, price, income, and perceived knowledge.
For the new study, researchers from Ghent University in Belgium set out to distinguish between consumers’ subjective and objective knowledge, and to use a structured equation model to analyse their role in shaping organic vegetable consumption.
A sample of 529 consumers in Belgium were questioned in January 2007 about their knowledge an attitudes.
Their general attitude was assessed by asking them to respond to the question: “Please indicate which word best describes how you feel when you eat organic vegetables”. The options were bad/good, happy/unhappy, unpleasant/pleasant, depressive/cheerful, terrible/delighted, negative/positive.
Their subjective knowledge was assessed with three questions, to which they had to reply on a 7 point scale from ‘totally agree’ to ‘totally disagree’: ‘‘Compared with an average person I know a lot about organic vegetables”; ‘‘I know a lot about how to evaluate the quality of organic vegetables”; and (3) ‘‘People who know me, consider me as an expert in the field of organic vegetables”
Four questions determined their objective knowledge to be answered true or false: ‘‘Organic farmers may use synthetic pesticides”, ‘‘Organic farmers may use synthetic fertilisers”; ‘‘Organic farmers may use genetically modified seeds” and
‘‘Organic vegetables may be irradiated to improve conservation”.
The researchers found that in general consumers were well-informed, but their subjective knowledge was “rather low” and significantly and strongly associated with organic vegetable consumption.
Objective knowledge, on the other hand, was only indirectly associated with organic veg consumption, via subjective knowledge and more favourable general attitudes.
“Attitudes towards organic vegetables have a direct positive and relatively strong relationship with organic vegetables consumption,” the researchers wrote, adding that: “Information and promotion campaigns could focus on promoting organic vegetables and organic food in general, so that consumers could improve their expertise and experience with those products.”
Food Quality and Preference 21 (2010) 581-588
Subjective and objective knowledge as determinants of organic vegetables consumption
Authors: Pienuiak, Z, Aersens, J, Verbeke, W.