Organic food is widely believed to be healthier, tastier, and more eco-friendly than food produced with the help of genetic modification, pesticides, and other chemicals. In a study titled Organic Foods: Do Eco-Friendly Attitudes Predict Eco-Friendly Behaviors? Dahm et al. analyze the causes of such beliefs focusing on the connection between them and actual consumer behavior. The research is based on the sample of students enrolled in one course, and it studies their attitude to organic food, consumer preferences, and opinion on other eco-friendly practices.
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The researchers note that women between the age of 30 to 45 were the primary organic food consumers, but the tendency shifted as younger generations are more environmentally conscious today (Dahm et al. 125). The example of organic food consumption shows that personal eco-friendly attitudes are strongly connected to eco-friendly behaviors, despite such barriers as price and accessibility.
Factors that Influence Attitude to Organic Food
A personal opinion on organic food is assumed to be the main reason for consumer behavior. This attitude is formed under a series of circumstances, as several factors are believed to influence the perception of organic food. The knowledge of the concept, education of people about organic food qualities, and availability in the stores are among them. Besides individuals’ opinions, other problems, including personal income and accessibility, tend to influence eco-friendly behavior negatively.
Knowledge of the Concept and its Seal
The attitude toward organic food highly depends on what the consumers know about it and how they understand the concept. Organic food is described as “products grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation” (Dahm et al. 126). Generally, people have an approximate understanding of the notion, although it may not include all the aspects mentioned in the definition.
According to Dahm et al., only less than half (49%) of the respondents identified the definition correctly, and even fewer students were able to recognize the USDA-approved seal for organic food (128). The connection between the knowledge of the definition and the seal was evident. Thus, the positive attitude towards naturally grown products is related to the knowledge of this type of food and its seal.
The labeling of products as organic helps to raise consumer awareness of them. Nevertheless, such seals may function not only as sources of objective information but also as a marketing device and provoke subjective evaluations as the consumers. The findings of the research by Pilař et al. show that organic food labeling is “a useful tool for marketing communication” (924). The knowledge of consumers about organic food often promotes an eco-friendly approach to it. The study shows that those who know the definition and recognize the marking have a positive belief about it, thus highlighting the influence of knowledge on the choice (Dahm, 131). However, it is also possible that the relationship is the opposite, as those people who are interested in organic food feel motivated to learn that information.
Several reasons motivate people to go for organic food, such as the desire for a healthy lifestyle, environmental motivation, and the perception of taste. Although previously, this tendency was prevalent among women who have children, today, the study shows that the enthusiasm for organic food increases among college-age people without significant differences between the genders (Dahm et al. 128). The attention to health consequences of consuming non-organic and organic products is one of the fundamental reasons that affect the attitude to it. Dahm et al. found the association between healthy dieting, regular exercising, and intention to buy organic foods (136). In addition to this, naturally grown products are believed to have a richer and more saturated taste.
Environmental responsibility is another factor that increases the motivation to choose organic foods over non-organic, as the natural ways of farming are believed to have no harmful effect on the environment. The use of chemicals such as pesticides in non-organic food production negatively impacts the ecosphere. The tendency to consume eco-friendly products influences not only the choice of organic food over non-organic but also such aspects as packaging.
However, for many people, environmentally friendly consumption is not always the best option. According to Konuk, high price is among the most widely spread barriers to purchasing organic food (143). The main obstacles to an environmentally conscious attitude are high costs and the availability of organic and eco-friendly foods in the stores.
Factors that Hinder the Positive Attitude towards Organic
The refusal of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and genetic modification negatively influences the volume of farming production and the capacity of the land. Moreover, it takes more workforce to tend and weed naturally grown crops. That is why organic products are generally higher in price than non-organic. This is the reason why many people from lower-income households perceive it as unaffordable for them. In the study performed by Dahm et al., the respondents with higher personal incomes indicated higher levels of awareness and support for organic foods” (133). It is evident that this factor plays a significant role in purchasing behavior.
The connection between Attitude and Behavior in Organic Food Consumption
Having positive attitudes about something does not necessarily predict actual behavior, as some external factors may hinder the choice. The primary focus of the article under discussion is to identify what connections exist between the opinions of the students on organic food and their actions regarding buying them. Dahm et al. conclude that such a relationship exists, and the attitudes do determine purchasing behavior (135). Among the factors that affect buying decisions, price, availability, appearance, taste, and information on the package play an important role. Taste is believed to be the most convincing and widely-spread motive for choosing to go organic.
Although the connection between one’s belief and actions seems logical, there are barriers that prevent individuals from purchasing organic food, despite their positive attitude. First of all, the level of personal income does not allow many consumers to choose the options they think are the best for them. Secondly, the absence of education about labeling and the advantages and disadvantages of organic food slows down the spreading of the tendency to buy them. Ansari and Talan also state that “subjective well-being … has been a significant contributor towards an overall healthy lifestyle and preference for organic food” (653).
In other words, people who feel more satisfied with life tend to focus on a healthier lifestyle and organic food. Moreover, the limited presence of such products in the store is another significant factor that limits the ability to choose an organic diet.
As mentioned in previous paragraphs, the tendency to choose organic foods spreads among individuals of the college-age equally for both genders. In the research by Dahm et al., the sample was picked among the students of a university in one of the southeastern states. Among the questions on the attitude towards purchasing and environment, it discussed the issues of food consumption on the campus (128). The ability to access the organic options in college canteens is the defining factor of students’ choice. According to Dahm et al., “50.5% of the students indicated they would support the use of organic foods on campus, and 64.0% reported they would buy organic foods if offered on campus” (131).
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These rates are substantially higher than the rates of positive attitude to organic food. This signifies that such measures as providing it on campus have the potential of enhancing natural and eco-friendly awareness. Several U.S. universities implement organic food distribution on their campuses, promoting a healthy lifestyle, and eco-awareness. Students generally show a better attitude towards cafeterias that promote the organic food diet and environmentally friendly practices.
Organic Food and Other Eco-friendly Attitudes and Behaviors
A positive attitude toward organic food is often closely related to environmental responsibility and eco-friendly behaviors. This connection does not take place in all the cases, but it frequently appears to be not only a part of a healthy diet approach but also an aspect of the whole “green” consumption vision. The research by Dahm et al. proves this hypothesis, claiming that the respondents “were more likely to act upon the beliefs they expressed about both organic foods and eco-friendly behaviors” (113).
However, this conclusion may be not representative enough as college-age people are more environmentally responsible than middle-aged individuals who are motivated mainly by healthy lifestyle preferences in their choice in favor of organic food. These opinions develop as a result of continuous individual education on environmental issues and their influence on food production and overall health.
Environmentally conscious attitude to such issues as conservation, ozone protection, the use of renewable energy, and purchasing the items made of recyclable material provokes corresponding behaviors. The knowledge and understanding of environmental issues serve as an urging force for eco-friendly actions. The students in the research by Dahm et al. stated that they “not only felt strongly about environmental issues, but they also felt compelled towards eco-friendly practices” (136). The findings suggest the correlation between the positive attitude to organic consumption and the same attitude towards eco-friendly activities.
The article under discussion concentrates on the correlation between the positive mindset on organic food and customer behavior. The attitude is believed to be influenced by the amount of knowledge and the correct perception of the issue as well as the ability to recognize its label. The assumed connection between attitude and behavior is proved not only concerning organic food consumption but also in correlation to other environmentally conscious activities. Moreover, a positive point of view on organic food often serves as a manifestation of an environmentally responsible personal position.
Ansari, Amirul Hasan, and Amogh Hasan Talan. “Effects of Well-Being, Stress and a Healthy Lifestyle on Preference for Organic Food.” Indian Journal of Health and Wellbeing, vol. 8, no. 7, 2017, pp. 648-654. ISSN-p-2229-5356,e-2321-3698.
Dahm, Molly J., et al. “Organic Foods: Do Eco-Friendly Attitudes Predict Eco-Friendly Behaviors?” Food, edited by Brooke Rollins and Lee Bauknight, Fountainhead Press, 2010, pp. 125-139.
Konuk, Faruk Anıl. “Price Fairness, Satisfaction, and Trust as Antecedents of Purchase Intentions towards Organic Food.” Journal of Consumer Behaviour, vol. 17, no. 2, 2017, pp. 141–148. Web.
Pilař, Ladislav, Lucie Kvasničková Stanislavská, et al. “Customer Experience with Organic Food: Global View.” Emirates Journal of Food and Agriculture, 2018. Web.