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An Investigation into Motivational Factors Which Influence Consumer Behaviour of Organic Products

February 7, 2019 0 Comment

An Investigation into Motivational Factors Which Influence Consumer Behaviour of Organic Products.

Contents
TOC h u z Proposal PAGEREF _30j0zll h 2
Background PAGEREF _1fob9te h 2
Aims of the research project PAGEREF _3znysh7 h 3
Theory PAGEREF _2et92p0 h 3
Methodology PAGEREF _tyjcwt h 4
References PAGEREF _17dp8vu h 5
Review of the literature PAGEREF _e2yezrlccrtb h 5
1. Segments in the market for organic food products PAGEREF _26in1rg h 6
2. Summary of functional motives PAGEREF _lnxbz9 h 7
2.1. Health PAGEREF _35nkun2 h 9
2.2. Product Superiority PAGEREF _1ksv4uv h 9
2.3. Concern for the natural environment PAGEREF _44sinio h 10
2.4. Animal Welfare PAGEREF _2jxsxqh h 11
3. Values as a factor in consumer motivation to purchase OFP PAGEREF _z337ya h 11
4. Consumer attitudes as a predictor of behaviour PAGEREF _3j2qqm3 h 13
5. Barriers to consumption PAGEREF _1y810tw h 13
5.1 Price PAGEREF _4i7ojhp h 14
5.2 Availability and limited range of organic food products PAGEREF _1ci93xb h 14
Data Collection and Analysis PAGEREF _3whwml4 h 17
1 Data collection PAGEREF _2bn6wsx h 17
1.1 Questionnaire design: Attitude PAGEREF _qsh70q h 19
1.2 Questionnaire design: Values PAGEREF _1pxezwc h 20
2. Analysis methods and findings PAGEREF _34cdz2i9nyk5 h 21
2.1.1 Reasons for purchasing organic food products and barriers to consumption PAGEREF _fnvy15c9mw0t h 22
2.1.2 Does a positive attitude towards OFPs necessarily translate to positive behaviour? Measuring the attitude-behaviour gap. PAGEREF _d18se7u41qmr h 26
2.1.3 Association between value factors and consumers’ attitudes and behaviour towards OFPs PAGEREF _90i94zdf5sgi h 27
Conclusion and reflection PAGEREF _2pbmk9162uzd h 29
Conclusion PAGEREF _8gv3ho2gbohv h 29
Development of skills during the project PAGEREF _4inm7lnvv193 h 30
Limitations of this research and methodological issues PAGEREF _46p8sgh5d31g h 31
Recommendations for industry and further research PAGEREF _z06tcs1umn01 h 32
Bibliography PAGEREF _147n2zr h 32
Appendices PAGEREF _3o7alnk h 34

Proposal

Background

For marketers, the rise of ‘ethical consumerism’ carries many implications, as well as opportunities. Gradually, consumers have become more aware of the effects of their consumption on the global environment, taking into account the consequences of production for the environment when making purchasing decisions.

While the market for organic products (OFPs) in Spain experienced a growth of 24.8 percent in 2015 representing the largest growth of the national market in the world, many companies have taken advantage of this growth, for example, Spanish supermarket chains such as Eroski and El Corte Inglés now have growing ranges of own-brand OFPs as well as fresh organic fruit and vegetables.
In this research project, an investigation will be carried out into the motivation and behaviour of consumers of OFP products in Zaragoza, Spain.
In order to carry out this research project and understand consumer behaviour, it is of utmost importance to first comprehend what the term ‘organic’ encompasses in Spain and how consumers identify OFP, distinguishing them from food produced using conventional methods. In general, the term ‘organic’ refers to agricultural products which respect regulations of organic agriculture, which vary from one region to the next. In the European Union, organic agriculture standards are set by the European Commission, and each member state must designate one or more regulatory bodies to control the certification of OFP.

If any product produced within the European Union complies with organic farming standards set by the European Commission, it is necessary to label the product with the EU organic logo, which aims to facilitate the identification of OFP by consumers (Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007, 2007). According to the European Commission, the organic logo ensures consumers that production respects the natural environment and animal welfare, employs sustainable methods of production, the restricted use of chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilisers in the production process and that the product does not contain genetically modified organisms (Organic Farming – European Commission, 2017).

Aims of the research project

As previous research consistently shows a gap between positive attitude towards OFP and actual purchase levels, information obtained will be used to identify the barriers to consumption that may contribute to the existence of the value-action gap, and what motivates the consumer to opt for OFP over products produced by conventional methods (for example, health or concern for the environment), identifying both perceived positive attributes of OFP and perceived negative attributes of conventionally-produced products that may cause consumers to opt for organic products instead.
Data obtained in the research process will be used to examine the extent to which consumers values and attitude towards about OFP reflect consumption behaviour. This involves investigating the consumer’s values and attitudes and investigating the existence of a correlation between these variables and the behaviour of the consumer and quantifying the value-action gap. This research will give valuable insight into consumer motivation and behavioural tendencies, information which could be applied to marketing strategy of relevant products and services.

Does a positive attitude towards organic food necessarily translate to consumption?
Is there a correlation between the values of respondents and their consumption patterns regarding OFPs?
Why do consumers purchase OFPs?
What are they greatest deterrents stopping consumers from purchasing OFPs?

Theory

According to the 2017 edition of “The World of Organic Agriculture,” a yearly global report released by The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, Spain was the country that experienced the greatest market growth for OFP in 2015, with a growth of 25% (Willer and Lernoud, 2017). Behind the increase in demand for OFP are consumers who lead Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS), a target segment for OFP and health food among other products positioned away from conventional products as sustainable alternatives. Members of this segment share concerns for health and environmental issues, live mostly in urban areas and are defined by their post-materialist ideas. These factors drive their demand for OFP, for which reason, this segment is propelling the growth of the market for OFP products in Europe (Schaer, 2009).
A study concerning Spanish consumers’ awareness of and knowledge about OFP demonstrated that the vast majority of Spanish consumers claimed to know what OFP were, recognising that OFP production was better for the environment, highly standardised and that OFP products could be recognised by a generic label. However, the proportion of respondents who actually had a clear understanding of organic production was much smaller, identifying a lack of knowledge on behalf Spanish consumers as a barrier to consumption of OFP. (Díaz et al., 2012)
Among the most relevant of academic contexts to be examined before undertaking this research, is the established theory based on previous studies that explore the reasons why consumers purchase OFP. The principal functional reasons to buy OFP reported by consumers have been identified as (in order of precedence): health; product quality/superiority; and consideration for environmental consequences of production. (Tregear, 1994). These motives have been backed up by recent research. (Hughner, 2007; Pearson, 2007).
Equally important for understanding consumer purchase frequency of OFP is recognising the existence of barriers to consumption, that is, why consumers often opt for conventional produce over organic ones. Research is almost unanimous on this point, agreeing that price and availability are the greatest deterrents (Hugher et. al, 2007). Another study focused specifically on Spanish consumers and cited ‘a lack of knowledge’ and price as the principal barriers to consumption of OFP (Díaz et al., 2012).

A recurring issue presented by established literature is the criteria used for segmentation of the market for OFP. It is important for marketers to identify consumer segments in order to effectively position the product, however, previous research demonstrates that although certain demographic variables (such as level of education and gender) have a weak correlation with OFP consumption, demographic criteria for segmentation of the organic market is largely unreliable, because consumer food choice is complex.
Subsequent research has been aimed at conceiving a more effective framework of segmentation criteria to identify a distinguishable consumer segment, including level of awareness, level of commitment and purchase frequency. (Pearson, 2007). One study identified three segments of consumers in Spain based on these consumers’ willingness to pay, knowledge of, and consumption of OFP. These three segments showed differences in level of education and income. (Díaz et al., 2012)
Although knowledge and attitudes towards OFP have been frequently used as segmentation criteria, it has been consistently shown that the correlation between a positive attitude towards OFP and actual purchase levels/purchase frequency is weak, meaning that positive attitudes towards OFP do not always translate into actual purchase (Pearson, 2007). Even if consumers with positive attitudes want to purchase organic products they may resort to conventionally-produced products due to aforementioned barriers such as the more limited selection of OFP, price, lack of knowledge or the extra time required to purchase organic food. I will investigate the correlation between attitude and purchase frequency and verify obstacles that prevent consumers from purchasing OFP.

Methodology

Data will be collected from respondents using questionnaires which will measure consumer attitudes towards OFP and purchase behaviour (intended purchase behaviour and self-reported actual purchase behaviour) in order to quantify the extent to which attitude can be used to predict purchase behaviour, that is, the value-action gap.
The research questionnaires will also examine consumer motivation to purchase OFP and barriers to consumption. This will consist of examining the reasons why consumers opt for either OFP or conventionally-produced food products.
Data will be collected using questionnaires from at least 100 respondents using a method of convenience sampling. As there is no sampling frame available, probability sampling is not possible. Therefore, convenience sampling is the most practical sampling method available for this project.

References

Willer, Helga and Julia Lernoud (Eds.) (2017): The World of Organic Agriculture. Statistics and Emerging Trends 2017. Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), Frick, and IFOAM – Organics International, p.71. Bonn. Version 1.3 of February 20, 2017. Available to download online: http://www.organic-world.net/yearbook/yearbook-2017.html
Solomon, M., Bamossy, G., Askegaard, S. and Hogg, M. (2013). Consumer Behaviour: A European Perspective. 5th ed. Pearson Education Limited, p.222.

Schaer, B. (2009). The organic market in Europe: Trends and challenges. Training Manuals for Organic Agriculture.

Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 of 28 June 2007 on organic production and labelling of OFP and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 2092/91. (2007). The Official Journal of the European Union, online Article 25. Available at:
2007:189:0001:0023:EN:PDF Accessed 4 Jul. 2017.

Organic Farming – European Commission. (2017). The organic logo guarantees – Organic Farming – European Commission. online Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/organic/consumer-trust/certification-and-confidence/the-organic-logo-guarantees_en Accessed 4 Jul. 2017.

Mesías Díaz, F., Martínez?Carrasco Pleite, F., Miguel Martínez Paz, J., & Gaspar García, P. (2012). Consumer knowledge, consumption, and willingness to pay for organic tomatoes. British Food Journal, 114(3), 318-334.
Tregear, A., Dent, J., & McGregor, M. (1994). The Demand for Organically Grown Produce. British Food Journal, 96(4), 21-25.
Hughner, R., McDonagh, P., Prothero, A., Shultz, C., & Stanton, J. (2007). Who are OFP consumers? A compilation and review of why people purchase OFP. Journal Of Consumer Behaviour, 6(2-3), 94-110.
Pearson, D., Henryks, J., and Moffitt, E. 2007. What do buyers really want when they purchase OFPs? An investigation using product attributes. Journal of Organic Systems 2(1):1–9.

Review of the literature

The market for organic food and drink is monitored by the European Commission, which has strict regulations concerning the criteria that producers must meet for their products to be classified as ‘organic’. Any agricultural products or processed food and drink products which do meet this set of criteria, must be labelled with the EU organic logo, for easy identification by consumers. (Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007, 2007). According to the European Commission, the organic logo allows consumers that production has a low ecological footprint, that production methods and resources used are sustainable, that the use of chemical pesticides and artificial fertilisers is limited and that the product does not contain genetically modified organisms (Organic Farming – European Commission, 2017).
Eu Organic Logo

According to the 2017 edition of “The World of Organic Agriculture,” a yearly, global report released by The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, Spain was the country that experienced the greatest market growth for OFP in 2015, with a growth of 25% (Willer and Lernoud, 2017). The current growth and change in the market for organic foods products (OFPs) offers opportunities to producers and marketers of these products, but an understanding of consumer motives, attitudes, segments and purchasing behaviour is first necessary before developing or implementing any strategy.

1. Segments in the market for organic food products

Although research has yet to establish concrete demographic and sociographic segments in the market for OFP, there are several trends that do reoccur throughout the literature. For example: it has been consistently confirmed that females are more likely to purchase OFP in large quantities than males (Pearson et al., 2011; Aslihan Nasir and Karakaya, 2014) , that buyers of organic food tend to exhibit high income levels when compared to non-buyers (Briz and Ward, 2009; Mesias Diaz et al., 2012), and that consumers with higher levels of education are more willing to purchase OFP (Briz and Ward, 2009; Mesias Diaz et al., 2012) Also important is the presence of children in a family, which has a positive correlation with purchase frequency of OFP. (Pearson et al., 2011; Aslihan Nasir and Karakaya, 2014) A study conducted in a metropolitan area in Europe found that demographics are not a reliable predictor of behaviour, but that demographics do influence attitudes towards OFP. (Tsakiridou et al., 2008)

It has been suggested that the difficulty with identifying an accessible segment in the organic food market based on demographics alone (for example, age, gender, income levels) is rooted in the fact that motivation driving food choice is a complex process (Fotopoulos and Krystallis, 2002). Although identifiable and accessible consumer segments based on demographic and sociographic variables have not been successfully established, research has identified segments in the market for organic products based on behavioural and psychographic variables such as attitude, purchase frequency and consumer values. This is mainly because while demographic trends do exist, organic food consumers are spread out across demographic segments.

For example, one study (Aslihan Nasir and Karakaya, 2014) discovered three identifiable consumer segments in a metropolitan European city based on attitude towards organic food: consumers with favourable attitudes, consumers with neutral attitudes and consumers with unfavourable attitudes. However, the demographic profile of each segment varied too greatly to use demographic criteria to access these segments. Another study that focused on behavioural variables (Diaz et al., 2012), established three identifiable segments for the organic food market in Spain based on willingness to pay. This study also discovered a positive correlation between the consumer’s level of knowledge and willingness to pay a higher price for organic food.

2. Summary of functional motives

One of the main objectives of this research project is to provide an insight into the factors that motivate consumers to purchase organic food. There is a general consensus in the literature that the three principal functional reasons for which consumers purchase organic food are: health; product superiority; and concern for the natural environment, or degradation and pollution caused by production processes. Since being identified by Treager (1994), later research has almost invariably supported these (Hughner, 2007; Pearson, 2007), although the order of importance which they appear varies from one study to the next, which may be due to cultural distinctions and differences in demographic and psychographic factors of participants (Pearson, 2007). Below is a chart summarising spanish consumers’ reasons for purchasing OFPs according to a Mintel market research report (2017).

Organic food and drink, Spain (2017) Retrieved from Mintel database

2.1. Health
Although ‘concern for health’ been identified as one of the major reasons for which consumers opt for OFPs, scientific research has failed to show any evidence that OFPs provide any measurable health benefit that conventionally-produced food does not (Y. Siderer et al., 2005). Associated with OFPs is the lack of pesticides and other chemicals which are perceived as harmful. The chemicals used in the production process of conventionally-produced food products are seen by consumers as having negative and/or unknown effects on human health caused by long-term exposure. (Hughner et. al., 2007). For this reason, some of the consumers who purchase OFPs with health as the main reason behind the purchase may be engaging in the purchase to avoid negative qualities associated with conventionally produced products, rather than to gain extra health benefits of OFPs. Pearson (2011). categorises the health-motivated consumers into two groups: proactive consumers, who purchase organic food because of perceived health benefits associated with the attribute of ‘organic’; and reactive consumers, who purchase OFPs as a reaction to adverse circumstances, that is, consumers who avoid conventionally-produced food products. (Pearson et al. 2011).

2.2. Product Superiority

As previously stated, the most cited reason for which consumers purchase organic food is the superior quality and when compared to conventionally-produced food. According to Pearson and Henryks (2008) the main product quality criteria used by consumers to measure quality of OFPs are taste and product freshness, which are due to the faster delivery to the market required as the range of preservative techniques for organic products is more limited. It has been suggested that the higher prices of OFPs affect consumers’ perception of quality and taste, leading them to believe that OFPs are of superior quality than products produced using conventional methods (Hughner et al., 2007).

Although several studies suggest that certain categories of OFPs taste better than conventionally-produced products, the literature does not consistently show a link between the attribute ‘organic’ and higher product quality, as product quality parameters may not only vary from one consumer to the next (by criteria and importance of each criterion), but also because there are many additional variables that affect product quality. For this reason, the link between the organic production system (or any other production system) and product quality is unpredictable. (Pearson, 2011)

2.3. Concern for the natural environment

While the foundation for and rationality behind aforementioned major reasons to purchase OFP (health and product superiority) is controversial, the third major reason for which consumers purchase OFP, concern for the environment, is well-founded considering that it has been proven consistently that organic agricultural processes are less damaging to the natural environment than conventional agriculture. (Pimentel, 2005) This research confirms what would be expected, considering that European Union organic farming regulation obliges organic farmers to monitor impact on soil composition and fertility, contribute to higher levels of biodiversity and to make responsible use of natural resources such as water (Organic Farming – European Commission, 2017) through various methods including the use of crop rotation systems, the restriction of soil-contaminating chemical pesticides and the use of disease-resistant plant and animal species that, due to being naturally adapted to the environment, may be cultivated commercially without synthetic chemicals. The literature indicates that consumers associate the pesticides used in conventional agriculture with both harmful health effects and environmental pollution, and that this association contributes to the attitude of consumers towards OFP (Hughner et al., 2007).

However, consistent with subsequently discussed research demonstrating that internal values drive consumers to purchase OFP more so than external values (such as environmental concern), it has been demonstrated that health benefits and superior taste are more powerful drivers for consumers of OFP than concern for the natural environment, despite not being conclusively supported by research as rational motivations. (Hughner et al., 2007).

2.4. Animal Welfare

The literature also demonstrates that among the other reasons for which consumers purchase OFP, albeit of considerably less importance to consumers, is animal welfare. Consumers perceive that the standard of animal welfare held by organic livestock producers and used in organic production is higher than that of their conventional counterparts who use traditional methods of production. (McEachearn and Willock, 2004)

3. Values as a factor in consumer motivation to purchase OFP

The literature generally distinguishes between values as a motive for the consumption of organic food and functional motivations for buying organic food (for example, health benefits), which are often considered superficial manifestations of these values. It is important to understand the distinction between types of motives and the relationship between when undertaking this research.

The Means-End Chain model is a research approach that establishes the relationship between functional motives for purchase and terminal values (some belief about a desired end-state) (Padel and Foster, 2005). In summary, this relationship begins with the product attribute, which can be linked to one or more functional consequences, which can be linked to psychosocial consequences, which in turn can be linked to terminal values. It is important to note that ‘functional consequences’, although tangible, may not always be immediately susceptible to evaluation by consumers. This becomes clear in how a consumer may evaluate the taste of a food product immediately following or during consumption, while other functional consequences, such as health benefits cannot undergo immediate evaluation.

Example of a Means-End Chain (Padel and Foster, 2005)
Much research has conclusively validated the strong link between consumer values and consumption behaviour when it comes to organic food. (Grunert and Juhl, 1995; Dreezens et al., 2005, Aertsens et al., 2009) For example, consumers who value universalism (one of the universal, cross-cultural values identified by Schwartz’s theory of basic human values), are more likely to purchase organic food and have a favourable attitude towards OFP. (Dreezens et al., 2005). Chryssohoidis and Krystallis (2005) demonstrated using Kahle’s List of Values (LOV) typology, that internal values (for example, self-respect and fun/enjoyment) have the highest positive correlation with organic food consumption and that these values motivate consumers to purchase organic foods for their health benefits and superior taste. This study also demonstrated that external/interpersonal values such as “warm relationship with others” correlate to consumers who purchase OFP with environmental concerns as their principal functional motive. Padel and Foster (2005) also discovered, using a series of laddering interviews to explore the underlying values related to food choices, that organic food consumption is motivated principally by the values of health, benevolence and sustainability.

4. Consumer attitudes as a predictor of behaviour

In consumer behaviour, attitudes may be defined as long lasting, general evaluations about a product or advertisement. (Solomon, 2013) Attitudes are used in market research to evaluate consumers’ opinions about a product or advertisement, and may be measured by simple single-item scales to more complex multi-attribute models, one of the most widely multi-attribute models used most widely being the Fishbein Model. (Fishbein, 1983) While multi-attribute models such as the Fishbein model have now for some time been used by marketers to evaluate consumer attitudes, (for example, to place emphasis in a marketing campaign on most important attributes which are ranked as superior to other brands or similar products), it has been widely debated whether attitudes may actually be used as a reliable predictor of behaviour.

Various studies concerning the decision process of consumers when purchasing organic food have pointed towards the existence of a ‘value-action gap’, that is, a discrepancy between attitudes towards OFPs and actual behaviour of consumers who hold said attitudes. (Padel and Foster, 2005; Tsakiridou, 2008) Respondents in both cited studies justified this discrepancy mainly referring to the price and limited availability of OFPs. For this reason, research on barriers to consumption is vital to understanding why consumer intentions don’t always necessarily translate into behaviour. Other justifications included a lack of knowledge/education about OFPs and mistrust of labels and certification.

5. Barriers to consumption

When exploring the motivation behind the behaviour of consumers, it important to identify the reasons why consumers may want to purchase a certain product in order to understand why the product is appealing to the market, but it is also valuable to understand deterrents, that is, reasons why consumers may not purchase the product. A majority of prior studies have concluded that the greatest deterrents which act as barriers to consumption of organic products in the Spanish market are: price; availability; satisfaction with conventional products; and lack of knowledge. (Fuentes and López de Coca, 2008; Mesias Diaz et al., 2012) A study conducted by Padel and Foster (2005) revealed that consumers who frequently purchase OFPs considered the main impeding factor to be a lack of availability or product choice, while consumers who purchased OFPs only occasionally considered price to be the greatest barrier to consumption of OFPs.

5.1 Price

Research has concluded that price has been the most significant factor hindering growth of demand for OFP in Spain. (Fuentes and López de Coca, 2008; Mesias Diaz et al., 2012) and across Europe (McEachern and Willock, 2004; Padel and Foster, 2005; Aschemann?Witzel, and Zielke , 2017) When examined using the contingent valuation technique, a common tool used to determine consumer willingness to pay for various attributes of products, a majority of consumers showed interest in consuming organic tomatoes if sold at the same price or at a maximum premium of 0.91€/kg, a 50% premium on conventionally-produced tomatoes. At the time of the study, however, the price premium of organic tomatoes was 84% above the price of conventional tomatoes.

Previous research on price as a barrier for consumption seems to lack information about reasons why consumers cannot justify the price premium for organic foods. It has been suggested that related to the unwillingness to pay a premium price for OFPs is the doubt and mistrust of marketing claims, who cannot justify a premium due to wariness about the truth of these claims. (Padel and Foster, 2005) Action taken by industry to overcome the barrier of price may entail a reduction in price by achieving economies of scale and/or marketing to attempt to convince the consumer that the price premium of OFPs over conventional produce is worth paying.
5.2 Availability and limited range of organic food products

Along with price, the other most cited deterrent is the lack of availability and choice of products (Padel and Foster, 2005; Fuentes and López de Coca, 2008; Mesias Diaz et al., 2012). The main issue concerning accessibility is the perceived limited range of OFPs available at many retail outlets. It has been concluded that consumers are not willing to invest effort in the search for organic products, and that when it is more convenient to purchase conventional products, many consumers will do so (Padel and Foster, 2005).

The decision process of consumers regarding food involved two stages: first, the consumer selects a retail outlet and it is only at that stage that many consumers make the choice between purchasing organic and conventional products. The choice that consumers make in the second stage is always limited to what is available to them in the chosen retail outlet, and therefore depends on the first stage of decision (Thompson, 1998). For this reason, factors such as convenience and habit that affect the choice of retail outlet, indirectly affect food choice and the trade-off between organic and conventional food.

Consumers who showed a preference for purchasing OFPs in supermarkets over specialist, local food retailers and markets largely failed to reach the ‘value’ level in laddering interviews conducted with the purpose of discovering underlying values linked to the purchase of the product, suggesting that supermarkets as choice of retail outlet for consumers may be purely functional, unlike specialist organic food retailers, which may be linked to underlying values and fulfil concealed desires. (Padel, 2005) However, regular consumers of organic food in this study also indicated that the convenience of supermarkets habitually wins over specialist retailers in some circumstances. It is fitting to point out that Spanish supermarket chains such as Mercadona, El Corte Inglés, and Eroski now have growing ranges of organic products, including fresh fruit and vegetables and own-brand ranges of organic processed products, and according to a Mintel market research report on Spanish consumers who purchase OFPs, 62% of OFPs were purchased in supermarkets or hypermarkets, while the percentage of OFPs purchased in organic supermarkets/health stores and farmers’ markets/farms were 35% and 21% respectively.

Organic food and drink – Spain (2017) Retrieved from Mintel database

Research has shown, however, that consumers of organic products show scepticism and mistrust towards supermarkets as retailers for OFPs, questioning the quality, justifications for price premium, and even whether the product is really organic. (Padel and Foster, 2005; Aschemann?Witzel, and Zielke, 2017) Using projective techniques in focus groups, Padel and Foster (2005) discovered that supermarkets had a negative connotation for some consumers, who cited ethical issues regarding the production process, mistrust of labelling and scepticism regarding the focus on cosmetic presentation of products.

Data Collection and Analysis

1 Data collection

In this section, the methodology of this research will be outlined in depth and analysis methods will be explained, leading to results of the study and discussion of these results in light of previous literature.

Due to the nature of the research as well as financial and time-constraints, the sampling method most appropriate for this research was convenience sampling, a non-probability method by which the researcher selects sample units from the population based on accessibility and ease-of-recruitment. While the results of research carried out using non-probability sampling methods cannot be considered statistically representative of the entire population, due to the exploratory nature of the research aims and the fact that this research will not be used to make generalisations about the entire population, convenience sampling is appropriate.

However, when collecting data, an effort was made to ensure that the sample was not excessively homogenous, purely based on demographic factors such as gender and age. An effort was made to obtain a diverse sample based on these observable factors. This data was collected in the survey and characteristics of the sample can be observed below:
Gender Male Female Prefer not to specify
29 70 1
Age (years)
19-25 11 (11%) 25 (25%) 1 (1%)
26-35 8 (8%) 13 (13%) 0 (0%)
36-45 3 (3%) 13 (13%) 0 (0%)
46-60 6 (6%) 15 (15%) 0 (0%)
61+ 2 (2%) 3 (3%) 0 (0%)

The method used to collect the data was a questionnaire which was directed to participants both face-to-face and online, which included a set of questions intended to measure attitude, behaviour (both using a Likert scale) motivations and perceived barriers to consumption, which were each explored using an open question. The survey, the English translation and responses can be found in the appendices (appendices 2,3 and 4 respectively). It was concluded that a questionnaire was the most appropriate data collection method as it would allow collection from a large audience in a short time, unlike interviews and focus groups. A large quantity of responses of the same questions would allow the identification of trends and quantitative analysis of data.
An alternative that had been considered for the section of the questionnaire about motivations to consume OFPs and deterrents for consumers was a list. Following the pilot test, however this was replaced with an open question for two reasons: firstly, because it may have led respondents towards a particular answer, and that using an open question meant that respondents would be less swayed by pre-programmed choices; and secondly, due to the fact following the pilot test involving five respondents (Spanish speakers), it was agreed that the survey was too long, which may have caused it to appear daunting and costly. Removing the list and replacing it with a brief, open question was one of the measures taken to reduce the length of the questionnaire in order to improve response rate and willingness to respond accurately. Another reason why an open question considered to be better for these sections is because it was not possible, upon designing the questionnaire, to know about or include all of the possible answers.

The option of asking only those who don’t consume organic products frequently the question about barriers to consumption was considered, however, it was decided following consideration of the literature and research aims, that this question would be asked to all respondents in order to collect enough data as well as because regular consumers of organic products also face barriers to consumption (Padel and Foster, 2005; Aslihan Nasir and Karakaya, 2014), and may even be more aware of these barriers. Another change made to the questionnaire following the pilot test stage, was that several options were added to the question “Which of the following statements best describes your behaviour?” as it was found to be restrictive for respondents.

During the pilot test it was also discovered that respondents were more willing to participate when asked the questions directly and filled in by the researcher, rather than being handed the questionnaire and a pen and asked to fill it in. Therefore, a face-to-face questionnaire method was chosen for the actual research.
This research was conducted by asking respondents the questions directly and selecting the answers for them on a touch screen smartphone using Google Forms. This method was more time-efficient than using a pen and paper to fill out surveys as it was not necessary to transfer information from the surveys into a spreadsheet. However, when faced with the difficulty of recruiting willing participants, time-constraints became a preoccupation as many approached subjects were not willing to participate. For this reason, the survey was also distributed online through social media to willing participants living in Zaragoza. This measure helped to yield an adequate sample size.
The questionnaire was administered to participants who were randomly selected and approached in a public square in the centre of Zaragoza (La plaza de España), at the entrance to an urban park (El Parque Grande José Antonio Labordeta) and outside a shopping centre (Aragonia, Av. Juan Carlos I, 44, 50009 Zaragoza).

1.1 Questionnaire design: Attitude

The instrument used to measure attitudes for this research was a Likert scale composed of statements that reveal consumers’ attitudes towards OFP. 18 attitude-revealing statements were designed based on issues brought to light in previous literature, such as organic food being beneficial for the environment, trust in organic certification and labelling, and willingness to pay a price premium for OFPs. Ten judges were then recruited to evaluate the attitudinal direction demonstrated by each statement (its favourability towards OFPs). This was determined by giving each statement a score based on the level of favourability that it demonstrated. Statements were scored as follows, so that statements which displayed neither a favourable nor unfavourable attitude could be identified easily by their total scores closer to zero, while statements which demonstrated a very strong intensity in either direction could be identified by high positive scores or low negative scores.

Very unfavourable -2
Unfavourable -1
Neither favourable nor unfavourable 0
Favourable +1
Very favourable +2

The statements that were perceived to demonstrate the highest and lowest levels of favourability, of which the attitudinal direction that it indicated was agreed by respondents, were kept for the research, while the items that did not discriminate between favourable and unfavourable attitudes, or those that were not agreed on by the majority of judges were discarded. For example, the statement, “Organic products must comply with stricter regulation than conventional products,” received a score of 4, with 60% of the respondents indicating that it was not clearly an attitude-revealing statement. Meanwhile, the statement, “Organic food products taste better than their conventional counterparts,” received a score of 18, having been classified as a “very favourable” statement by 80% of respondents. The statements and their calculated scores can be found in the appendices (appendix 1).

Each respondent’s attitude score was calculated as the value of the sum of his/her responses to each statement, each response receiving codes based on level of agreement with the statement, ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree), with the number 3 indicating a neutral or indifferent attitude, and with responses to statements that portray a negative attitude towards OFPs being multiplied by -1. This allowed a comparable, numerical indicator of attitude for each respondent.
Consumption behaviour of respondents was also given a numerical value for comparison purposes, based on response of statements derived from behavioural factors such as frequency of purchase, price sensitivity, purchase decision and level of commitment to OPFs. Answers to questions about behaviour were also ranked from 1-5 for coding and analysis purposes (for example, regarding purchase frequency, 1 indicates that the respondent reported that they never purchase OFPs, while 5 means that they reported buying OFPs most frequently)

1.2 Questionnaire design: Values

Among various common instruments used to identify consumer values were Kahle’s List of Values (LOV), Values and Lifestyle (VALS) and the Rokeach value survey. Due to the fact the VALS approach relies on demographic criteria, which is not the main focus of this research project and would therefore add an additional layer of intricacy and involve unnecessary questionnaire elements, and criticism regarding the cross-cultural validity of the VALS approach (Beatty, Homer and Kahle, 1988) along with the complexity of the Rokeach Value Survey, the approach chosen for this research was Kahle’s List of Values (Kahle, 1988) for its simplicity and because its applicability has been assessed and validated for to the organic food market in Europe by Chryssochoidis (2004), who confirmed the cross-cultural validity of the approach as well as its use in the specific area of OFPs, with the profile of values of a Greek probability sample being almost identical to that of the original study. This list comprises 9 values, which may be used to compare differences and similarities within consumer groups. The LOV approach, based on previous, frequently-cited research such as Maslow’s Hierarchy and Rokeach’s 18 terminal values, consists of a simple questionnaire, such as the following:

1 List of Values questionnaire (adapted from Kahle, 1998)

The survey shown above was adapted from Kahle (1988), translated into Spanish and used in this research project. It was important to ensure that my translation was accurate, for which reason, I studied the description of each of the values measured by this scale from its original source (Beatty, Homer and Kahle, 1988) and asked Spanish speakers to describe in simple words what they perceived the questions to be asking. This way, I was able to ensure that my translation correctly reflected the values reflected in the LOV scale. For analysis of ranked items from the LOV, it was not necessary to establish a coding scheme, as answers were naturally ranked.

2. Analysis methods and findings

It was discovered, using a t-test for 2 independent means, that women reported a greater level of participation in consumption behaviour towards OFPs (behaviour being calculated as the sum of ranked answers to questions about purchase frequency, willingness to pay more for OFPs and involvement in the search process for OFPs). The results of the t-test were as shown in the table below:

Male Female
Mean 6.10 8.43

Variance
18.10
14.05
Hypothetical difference between the means 0
t statistic -2.56
Critical value for t (one-tailed) 1.67792672
P value 0.00686394

The t-value is -2.69925. The p-value is .008199, therefore, the result is significant at p ; .05, that is, a significance level of 0.05. The effect size (Cohen’s D) was 0.581215.
There was no correlation between the age of respondents and their attitudes or consumption behaviour. However, it was discovered that there was a weak to moderate positive correlation between age and the belief that OFPs are of better quality than conventional products (r=0.302) and that they taste better (r=0.424).

2.1.1 Reasons for purchasing organic food products and barriers to consumption

Two of the main aims of this research project were a) to identify the reasons for which consumers purchase OFPs and b) identify the barriers to consumption. The qualitative data obtained in the two previously described open questions that intended to collect data on these subjects were analysed by assigning identifying recurring patterns in the responses and assigning a code to each one. For example, answers related to environmental reasons were given the code number 1. In Microsoft Excel, each answer was replaced with its assigned code. This facilitated the process of counting and categorising responses, as well the the creation of a graph that allowed a simple interpretation of the obtained results.

In accordance with the literature (Treager, 1994; Hughner, 2007; Pearson, 2007), the two most cited reasons among participants for consuming OFPs were: concern for health; and concern for the environment. Both motives were mentioned 42 times among participants, indicating that both concern for the environment and concern for health are the principal reasons for which consumers may purchase OFPs. Despite the controversy and uncertainty surrounding additional health benefits of OFPs (that is, as discussed in the review of the theory, the fact that scientific research has not demonstrated any extra perceptible health benefit of OFPs when compared to conventional products) , it was established that health benefits were of equal importance as environmental concerns among the sample, and that consumers consider the consumption of OFPs to be more beneficial to their health than their conventional counterparts. Furthermore, 73% of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that OFPs are healthier than conventional products and that their consumption provides more health benefits and 82% agreed that organic production contributes to the protection of the environment. It should be noted, however, that the next most cited reason why consumers purchase organic food products was that they are more natural/contain fewer artificial chemicals/to avoid pesticides. Participants considered that OFPs are more “natural” and that they contain less harmful chemicals. This motive is related to concern for health. However, participants who mentioned that they consume OFPs to avoid harmful chemicals may be, rather than seeking extra health benefits from OFPs, avoiding the negative effects associated with food produced using conventional methods.
The third most frequently cited reason (being mentioned by 14 out of 100 respondents) for consuming OFPs among the sample was ‘higher quality/superior taste.’ Many participants stated simply that they believe organic products are of a superior quality, while others specified that they “taste better”.

Other frequently-mentioned motivations were: concern for animal welfare (implying that consumers perceive organic agricultural methods ensure animal wellbeing); and that organic foods are more frequently sold close to the zone of production/that they are local.

As expected in view of previous research, the barriers to consumption, or reasons why consumers may not purchase OFPs are (as shown in the chart above): price; unavailability/difficulty finding OFPs; poor variety; lack of knowledge and distrust. It is not surprising, considering previous research that an overwhelming majority of participants specified price as the greatest barrier to consuming OFPs. Price as a barrier to consumption was mentioned by 74% of participants, making it the most frequently-cited reason not to purchase OFPs. Furthermore, 85% of respondents claimed that they would always choose the organic version of a product if its price were equal to its conventional counterpart, as demonstrated in the following chart:

36% percent of respondents identified ‘unavailability’ as a reason why they do not consume OFPs. Many of these respondents maintained that OFPs are difficult to find in supermarkets and other retail establishments frequented by consumers, meaning that it would be advisable that marketers of OFPs to take into account the consumer’s desire for convenience of the retail establishment, which, due to the busy lifestyle of many consumers today, may win over motivation to engage in an extensive search process for OFPs . Some specified that they simply do not know where OFPs are sold while others mentioned that the establishments that sell OFPs are not as conveniently located as supermarkets. ‘Poor variety’ was another frequently-mentioned reason why participants do not purchase OFPs. It was mentioned that there is a poor choice of OFPs available when compared to the range of conventional products in supermarkets.
Other factors that participants cited as deterrents were ‘distrust’ and ‘lack of knowledge.’ Each of these items were mentioned by 5% of participants. The lack of knowledge on these respondents’ behalf about organics deterred them from purchasing OFPs because they either: did not know what OFPs were and how they differed from conventional products; did not know where to purchase OFPs; or demanded additional comparative information about products. In light of this research, it would be advisable for marketers of OFPs to ensure clear communication of promotional information about what the term ‘organic’ entails, where appropriate, and that information about the establishment of purchase is available to consumers.
Participants who displayed an attitude of distrust towards OFPs when questioned on reasons why they would not purchase these products showed doubtfulness about the benefits of the organic production system for the environment, and claimed that there is an element of information asymmetry in the market for OFPs, that is, that the organic label was not trusted to mean that a product is actually organic. It was also revealed that some participants did not trust information spread by producers of OFPs. Furthermore, although only 5% of participants mentioned distrust as a reason not to purchase OFPs, over 25% of the sample either agreed or strongly disagreed with the statement “I don’t trust the label/stamp of certification on organic products,” meaning that distrust is a critical element that is hindering the growth of the industry. Marketers may be able to confront the distrust of consumers towards organic certification labels by taking various measures, such as maintaining transparency in their brands and providing information about the requirements regulation surrounding the use of the certification.

2.1.2 Does a positive attitude towards OFPs necessarily translate to positive behaviour? Measuring the attitude-behaviour gap.

The overall attitude score and the total behaviour score have a moderate, positive correlation (r=0.556). This means that although a positive attitude may lead the consumer to engage in positive purchasing behaviour, that is not always the case, as can be observed on the scattergraph above.
A pattern was observed among the association of different attitudinal factors with purchase frequency: There was a very weak linear relationship between the strength of the belief that organic agriculture is better for the environment and purchase frequency (r=0.2822), and no correlation between the belief that organic agriculture respects animal wellbeing and purchase frequency (0.155). However, unlike beliefs related to ethics, environment and wellbeing, the belief that OFPs are of superior quality when compared to conventional products and that OFPs taste better demonstrated a moderate positive correlation with purchase frequency (r=0.41229 and r=0.3494, respectively)
Summarised, among this sample, a positive attitude towards OFPs did not always translate to positive purchasing behaviour. Furthermore, consumers who maintained a positive outlook regarding the taste and quality of OFPs reported a higher purchase frequency than those who had positive attitudes regarding the wellbeing of animals used in the agricultural process and the environment impact of OFPs.
2.1.3 Association between value factors and consumers’ attitudes and behaviour towards OFPs

Pearson’s product moment correlation coefficient was used to investigate a relationship between the value factors of Kahle’s LOV, using the possible existence of a linear relationship between value ratings and self-reported behaviour. The correlation coefficient of each value with each consumer response can be found in the appendices The values of ‘excitement’ and ‘self-fulfillment’ were found to have a weak positive correlation with overall buying behaviour, while the values´self-fulfillment’ and ‘self-respect’ were more likely to actively search for OFPs and consider their availability when choosing a retail establishment and to be willing to pay more for OFPs. The value factor ‘excitement’ maintained a moderate, positive correlation with the consideration of OFPs in the search process. It was also discovered that among the sample, the consumers who valued ‘self-respect’, ‘excitement’, ‘self-fulfillment’ and ‘sense of accomplishment’ were more likely to believe that OFPs offer greater health benefits than conventional products. However, none of these values were found to have an association with level of purchase frequency, which could be due to the previously discussed barriers to purchase.
Excitement, self-fulfillment, self-respect and sense of accomplishment represent the four ‘internal’, ‘personal’ values of the LOV framework, while the remaining values can be classified as external/interpersonal’ or internal/apersonal. (Wedel et al., 1998). The positive correlation, between these internal/personal values and positive attitudes and behaviour regarding the consumption of OFPs coincide with the findings of Chryssohoidis (2005), who concluded that internal values are the principal drive of Greek consumers of OFPs, while external values such, as a sense of belonging, were of lesser importance.
It cannot be deduced that any relationship between value factors and consumption behaviour is causal, it is merely an association. However, as explained in the literature review, the Means-End Chain model implies that product attributes are linked to terminal values, as product choice is a path taken by the consumer to achieve a desired end-state. For this reason, values are a useful tool for marketers to understand the consumers´ terminal values and ultimate desires. This could serve marketers who wish to incorporate consumer values into their promotion strategy, for example, by involving an element of excitement in advertisements, or associating the product with self-respect.

Consumer value Associated with..

Excitement Consideration of the availability of OFPs in the decision of retail establishment (moderate positive correlation)

Willingness to pay a higher price for OFPs compared to the conventional version (weak positive correlation)

Belief that OFPs offer more health benefits than conventional products (weak positive correlation)
Self-fulfillment Consideration of the availability of OFPs in the decision of retail establishment (weak positive correlation)

Willingness to pay a higher price for OFPs compared to the conventional version (weak positive correlation)

Belief that OFPs offer more health benefits than conventional products (weak positive correlation)
Self-respect Preference of OFPs compared to conventional products

Belief that OFPs offer more health benefits than conventional products (weak positive correlation)

Consideration of the availability of OFPs in the decision of retail establishment (weak positive correlation)

Willingness to pay a higher price for OFPs compared to the conventional version (weak positive correlation)
Sense of accomplishment Willingness to pay a higher price for OFPs compared to the conventional version (weak positive correlation)

Belief that OFPs offer more health benefits than conventional products (weak positive correlation)

Consideration of the availability of OFPs in the decision of retail establishment (weak positive correlation)

Conclusion and reflection

Conclusion

1.1 Summary of findings
Research aim Findings
Is there a correlation between the values of respondents and their consumption patterns regarding OFPs? Consumers who value excitement, self-fulfillment, self-respect and sense of accomplishment (the four ‘internal’, ‘personal’ values of the LOV framework) are most likely to engage in purchasing behaviour.

Why do consumers purchase OFPs? Concern for the environment, concern for their health, concern for animal welfare, because they are more ‘natural,’ and to avoid harmful chemicals used in the production process.
What barriers limit the consumption of OFPs? Price, availability in retail establishments frequented by consumers, poor variety/choice of products, distrust towards organic labelling, lack of knowledge about OFPs on behalf on consumers.
Does a positive attitude towards organic food necessarily translate to consumption? A positive attitude towards OFPs did not always translate to positive purchasing behaviour. Furthermore, consumers who maintained a positive outlook regarding the taste and quality of OFPs reported a higher purchase frequency than those who had positive attitudes regarding the wellbeing of animals used in the agricultural process and the environment impact of OFPs.

2. Development of skills during the project

Completing this research project granted me the opportunity to develop skills which may be useful for my career, some of which can be applied in many fields. Firstly, I learned how to design effective surveys to obtain the most accurate results possible by learning at the research workshop in Dublin Institute of Technology, through the use of the textbook Research Methods for Business Students (Saunders et. al) and by putting into practice what I learned by designing my own survey. Having done developed this skill, I now ask myself whenever I answer a survey, “why are the questions designed in this way?” and even notice some poorly designed surveys every now and then!
This project also gave me the opportunity to acquire basic data collection and analysis skills. Before undertaking this project, I had never collected a considerable amount of primary data. I was surprised at how difficult it was to find willing respondents, which would have made it difficult to obtain a representative sample, especially considering time and financial constraints. Learning how to use Microsoft Excel to organise data into a matrix for analysis and practicing basic statistical techniques such as calculating correlation coefficients and t-values may be desirable for potential employers.

I was also given to opportunity to practice my writing skills. I learned that writing reports that are easy to read, outline the methodology used without being long-winded, and that portray results accurately required more consideration than many of the assignments that I have written throughout my degree. It was also a good chance to get used to managing and referencing a sizeable number of sources, and making a bibliography from these sources.

As many of the other skills that I acquired and developed while undertaking this project, the ability to research, examine and scrutinize academic literature from a critical point of view will help me in my final year and if I decide to pursue further studies.
Lastly, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to learn a lot about an industry that interests me by reviewing the existing literature and I now have a more profound understanding of consumer behaviour of organic products.

3. Limitations of this research and methodological issues

Issues related to self-reported behaviour on behalf of consumers are a relevant matter to consider. This research depended on respondents to be honest about their consumption behaviour. A study conducted in German by Niessen and Hamm (2008) discovered a significant disparity between self-reported consumption of OFPs and actual consumption, which was measured using point of sale data, with regular consumers of OFPs underreporting purchase frequency, and those who consume it less frequently exaggerating their purchase frequency. In future research, this effect could be minimised by complementing the research with methods such as collecting data through observation and from consumer panel data.

Various types of response bias may have affected this research despite efforts being made to minimise such bias. For example, participation bias, or the possibility that the characteristics of those who choose to respond to the survey differ to those who choose not to respond in some way, which may have skewed the results of the study.
Social desirability bias is another limitation to face-to-face research. This refers to the phenomenon whereby participants provide inaccurate information with the aim of gaining the researcher’s approval and appearing more positive. (Nederhof, 1985) For this research, it is possible that this type of bias occurred while conducting face-to-face questionnaires, but probably less so for the online surveys as they were anonymous. Examples of this may have been the over-reporting of attitudes and behaviour that may be considered socially desirable by the respondent (such as sustainable consumption behaviour). This may also involve the under-reporting of less desirable behaviour in order to maintain a positive image. This was considered while conducting this research and an effort was made to remain as neutral as possible as respondents provided answers.
Another type of bias which must be considered for this research is demand characteristics, which is a term used to refer to a type of response bias whereby subjects vary their responses merely because they are aware that they are participating in research. (Nichols & Maner, 2008) One concern related to demand characteristics is the “good subject effect,” whereby respondents, attempting to be ‘good’ participants, vary information in order to support the researcher’s hypothesis. This was avoided to some extent as participants were not provided with detailed information about the research aims. However, it remains a possibility that respondents’ perceived ideas about what the hypothesis may have entailed caused variations in their responses.
If I were to undertake a similar research project again, I would not use open questions to obtain key information that could be ambiguous or misinterpreted. This is because it was not possible to ask subjects for elaboration on open questions when the survey was answered online. However, this did not turn out to be an important issue for the questions concerning barriers to consumption and reasons for consuming organic products, as answers were grouped according to factors that respondents cited in their answers. For example, it was straightforward to categorise frequent answers such as “price” and “lack of accessibility” as barriers to consumption, but the meaning of brief answers such as “local produce” as a reason to consume organic food had to be considered carefully and a small number of answers such as “for a more conscious/responsable world” had to be discarded due to a lack of elaboration.
4. Recommendations for industry and further research

As the price of OFPs turned out to be a significant deterrent for consumers, it would be valuable for future research to identify which consumers are able to justify the higher price of OFPs in order to develop a marketing strategy that would allow effective communication with these consumers.

For industry, the fact that price is a significant barrier to consumption implies that measures should be taken to either: a) position the product in a manner that emphasises superior quality and aim the product at those willing to pay a higher price; or b) drive market growth and sales through cost reduction measures and/or achieving economies of scale in order to allow a similar profit margin with a lower price.
It would also be valuable to research the specifics of the mistrust shown by consumers towards the labelling of OFPs in order for the industry to combat this obstacle.

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Appendices

Appendix 1: Attitude scale questionnaire

Appendix 2 (original survey)
Appendix 3 (survey English translation)

Appendix 4 (survey responses)