Consumer Behavior for Organic Food

In the past, it was wrongly presumed that consumer’s choice was spontaneous and instinctive. In fact, human behavior is the result of stimuli from environment, acting upon instincts, appetites and emotions. The consumer is said to be free to choose what goods he will buy and in what proportions he will by them. Consumers want to get maximum satisfaction to choose any of the goods and services. If we see the food choices of consumers, there is long term gradual change in this. Now consumers are more conscious about their health and they want nutritious and healthy food even for giving high prices. Table 1.1 shows in a schematic way the long term and differentiation of consumer preferences for food in a growing economy. The development may be divided into 3 phases-


Table 1.1 Change and differentiation of consumer preferences for food in a growing



Influence of income and prices

Strong (1st phase)

Decreasing (2nd phase)                    Small (3rd phase)

Get enough food

 Eat more

(Health trend)                                  Concern about residuals

Eat healthy                                      Concern about the environment

Less calories                                   Eat, buy and prepare food more

More vitamins                                eventfully

(Diversification trend)                    More transparency

Eat better and more                        Less anonymous mass

Diversified                                     Consumption

Enjoy food                                     Back to nature

(Convenience trend)

Eat, buy and prepare

Food with more convenience   


Phase 1. The situation is characterized by a general food scarcity. For this reason food demand is dominated by the nutritional need of getting food. The income and price elasticities of demand are high. The development of the per capita demand for food depends very much on income development.


Phase2. With growing income the basic physiological needs are satisfied resulting in a decline of the income and price elasticities of demand for basic food. Other motives behind food demand are gaining relative importance: the health trend, the desire to enjoy food/the diversification trend and the convenience trend.


Phase 3. The income and price elasticities of food demand are very small. The main trends of phase 2 prevail; however, they are differentiated and partly reversed. A growing concern about residues is promoting the demand for more food safety. The growing concern about residues is promoting the demand for more food safety. The growing concern about the environment is stimulating the search for problem solutions, which preserve resources. These trends are partly accompanied by a nostalgic move “back to nature” and by wish for more transparency and less anonymous mass consumption. They are contrasted by an increasing hedonism, the desire to eat, buy and prepare food more eventfully. For many people food consumption is becoming part of an “adventure seeking behavior”

Who are the organic consumers?

            What we consider as the “organic consumer” is that person who is responsible for buying food for the household and who buys organic food at least once or twice per month. So, if there are people who buy randomly or less than once a month then they are not considered regular organic consumers.


Values and behavior of organic consumers

What do organic consumers think, that is, what is in their minds concerning organic products, is a determinant factor of consumer preference for organic food. In spite of taking cognizance, a change in attitude and thinking about organic food is prerequisite, in order to feel confident and positive about this new direction.


An organic consumer has more positive beliefs concerning organic products. For example, this product tastes better, is more natural, is healthier-they believe that more than non-organic consumers. They believe that the people who are important to them, people who are close to them, also by organic products- they believe that it is a good thing that they buy organic products. The other aspect of what the organic consumer think, as compared to non-organic consumers, is their moral norms indicate they are doing a very good thing for the environment, the right thing for society. This is something that differences them from non-organic consumers. Non-organic purchases do not associate those beliefs to buy organic products.

Consumers’ values to make a choice for organic food can be seen in two terms-use values, such as utility from taste, health and freshness, i.e., private good attributes which can only be enjoyed by actually consuming the product. The other non-use values are public good values related to improved environment and animal welfare. The majority of all consumers-acknowledges and value organic goods for their non-use values (environmental or animal welfare attributes), as well as for their use values (health, taste or freshness attributes). The group of consumers having use values only is negligible. In the same way that most people agree exercise- is important; they also agree that a sustainable, clean environment is important.

Wier and Anderson (2003) studied consumers’ attitudes, values and purchasing behavior for organic foods. They concluded that organic buyers were more health concerned, more focused on residues, animal welfare and environmental attributes, less focused on low prices and more often they preferred domestic products.

But only some walk their talk. To better understand which consumers buy green and why, we have to look beyond what consumers say they do. To examine what they actually do.

 There is no question that consumers are changing the way they buy. A variety of societal factors are driving consumers to increasingly seek out unique and differentiated products that fit their lifestyle. Consumers purchase of green or sustainable organic products are not just motivated by the produces themselves but by the values they represent. We can change non-organic consumers minds to make them believe that organic products are better in different ways-for the taste, health or the environment and demonstrate that people who are important to them, whether it’s people who are related or not, such as celebrities, if they buy and consume organic product, then we might be able to move these consumers into the organic market.



GFK Denmark (2001): GFK ConsumerScan. Den okologiske forbruger 2000 (in Danish), Copenhegen. Okologisk Landsforenin (2002): Forbrugarnotat 2002 (in Danish). Arhus.


Wier, M. and Anderson, L.M. 2003: Demand for Organic foods-Attitudes, Values and Purchasing Behaviors. Newsletter from Danish Reaseach Center Farming. 2.pp 1-3


Blake, F. 1987. The Handbook of Organic Husbandary. The Cordwood press. pp 9-70.


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