Altruism is key to organic food growth, suggests study

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Altruistic tendencies are a key driver of organic food purchases, say the researchers.
Altruistic tendencies are a key driver of organic food purchases, say the researchers.

Related tags Organic food Sustainable agriculture

Marketing efforts for organic foods should put more focus on altruistic aspects such as the environmental and animal welfare aspects if they are to have sustained growth in the sector, say researchers.

The research– published in Food Quality and Preference​ – aims to understand consumer behaviour and assesses the key drivers for the purchase of organic foods, in order to make recommendations that could be critical for sustaining the global growth of the organic food sector.

Led by Prof. Dr. Achim Spiller from the University of Göttingen, Germany, the research team evaluated data from more than 13,000 German consumers  - finding that altruistic motives (such as environmental benefits and animal welfare) are the major factors affecting consumer attitude and purchasing behaviour towards organic products

“We find the strongest relationship between altruistic purchase motives and consumers’ attitudes and behaviour towards organic products in our model,”​ reveal Spiller and his colleagues.

“Thus, to increase organic food consumption … marketers should emphasise in communication campaigns the environmental benefits related to the production and consumption of organic food,”​ they argue – adding that the association between organic food products and other altruistic arguments (such as wider animal welfare issues and fair trade certifications) may also be an ‘interesting strategy’ to increase organic food consumption.

Study details

Spiller and his team analysed data from 13,074 German consumers who took part in the representative German National Nutrition Survey II (Nationale Verzehrsstudie II).

“This research model describes factors influencing consumer attitudes towards and purchasing behaviour of organic food,”​ explain the researchers.

They revealed that the strongest motivator for purchase decisions is altruistic aspects of the products, and that altruistic motives are a strong predictor of consumers attitudes and behaviours toward organic products.

In addition, the study found that the healthiness of products – measured as the attention paid to different nutritional food components – has no direct significant relationship with purchasing behaviour.

Issues with convenience, however, “are still an obstacle to increase organic food consumption,” ​they write.

“This suggests, for example, that improving availability of organic food in different distribution channels may make the task of purchasing easier for more convenience-oriented food consumers,”​ said Spiller and his colleagues..

“Other strategies such as providing convenient packaging designs and an easily reachable and identifiable placement within the store may help to increase organic food consumption.”

They added that issues such as price, “also remains an important barrier to an increase in organic food consumption,”​ while the concept of localness are important to some consumer groups.

“Marketers should thus highlight the association of organic production methods with local production and exclusiveness when suitable.”

Source: Food Quality and Preference
Volume 28, Issue 1​, Pages 60–70, doi: 10.1016/j.foodqual.2012.08.010
“Assessing determinants of organic food consumption using data from the German National Nutrition Survey II”
Authors: Carlos Padilla Bravo, Anette Cordts, Birgit Schulze, Achim Spiller

Related topics Science

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