Understanding consumer interest in organics: Production values vs. purchasing behavior

Anne C. Bellows, Benjamin Onyango, Adam Diamond, William K. Hallman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Extensive research exists on who does or might purchase organic food products, however little research has addressed either who values organic production methods when deciding what to eat, and correspondingly, who does not purchase organics regularly. This paper reports that values about organic farming often do not translate into corresponding stated preferences about organic food consumption behavior. The paradox is examined within the context of the consumers' socio-demographic characteristics as well as through opinions and preferences related to food in their lives. Results show that consumer claims of buying organics and placing importance on organic production systems when deciding what to eat are highly correlated (.472 at 1% significance level; p<. 001). Organic consumers, however, comprise only slightly more than one quarter (27%) of the highly enthusiastic proponents of organic production methods. Our results corroborate existing research that well-educated persons and those who are primary household shoppers purchase organics most frequently. Additionally, women and those who are older, have higher incomes, and are more liberal, as well as respondents who claim food production knowledge also tend to buy organic food regularly. Regression and factor analysis show that those who value organic production systems when deciding what to eat may be ranked in the following order: the religiously observant, older and female respondents, persons of color, and those who claim food production knowledge. Results show that many of these organic system proponents are under-represented as buyers, in particular: the religiously observant, those for whom food plays an integral role in their lives, the less educated, and lower income and older respondents. More attention should be directed to people who value organic production systems yet do not purchase organics. This will enhance understanding of the transaction barriers that impede consumer participation in the organic market. How this population values organic production systems also has implications for the development of public policy related to sustainable and organic agriculture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2
JournalJournal of Agricultural and Food Industrial Organization
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Credence attributes
  • Food preferences
  • Food production values
  • Organic purchasing behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Economics and Econometrics


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