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The Consumer's Opinion on Organic and Conventional Food

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Sustainable products are always seen as the expensive option (Market & Opinion Research International Limited (MORI), 2003). Being environmentally friendly is expressed to be accessible only to the middle classes. The consumers want to have a choice among the sustainable products rather than choosing products that are sustainable and those that are not. Consumers combine information about product attributes and consequences to evaluate a product and make their choices. They rely on their felt involvement which is influenced by their experience. The importance placed on each parameter is based on the consumers’ priorities and values. Experience develops personal relevance, importance, interest which together derives the motivational state (Shroeder, 2003).

Demographic variables as well as lifestyle and environmental attitudes define the organic consumer profile. Regular consumers of organic food tend to be educated, affluent and of higher social class (Padel and Foster, 2005; Stobelaar et al, 2006). Awareness of food hazards and knowledge of food hazards were higher among females and individuals with more education and income (McIntosh et al, 1994; Torjusen et al, 2001; Stobelaar et al, 2006). Lockie et al (2002) also found strong correlation between increasing consumption of organic food and levels of formal education. Organic consumers are willing to pay approximately 10% premium for organic food with an average of 9.5% by women and 11.4% by men (Urena et al, 2008). Regular consumers would pay a slightly higher premium around 15%, an average of 12/6% by women and 18% by men (Urena et al, 2008). This Spanish study also identified three groups of organic food consumers in relation to frequency of consumption namely regular, occasional and non-consumer. Regular consumers were defined as those who make purchases at least twice a week represented 12% of consumers, 42% were occasional consumers with 42% and the remaining 46% were non-consumers.

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Among the non-consumers, 25% were potential consumers with intention to buy organic food in the future. The gap between consumers’ opinion and their actual consumption needs to be taken into account. Generally, organic foods do not use pesticides or synthetic fertilisers. Presumably organic food contains fewer chemical residues and veterinary drugs compared to conventional food. Environmental contaminants however are likely to be found in food of both productions. Organic food contains only one-third of pesticides that conventional food does (Baker et al, 2002). It can be said that lower exposure translates into lower risk. In conventional food, almost all produce will have pesticide residue below the statutory maximum limits. Consumers express anxiety on agrochemicals, hormones and medicine in animal production and GMO and artificial additives in fruits and vegetables (Naspetti and Zanoli, 2006).

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