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Consumer Behaviour in Organic Food

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Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UK Essays.

Published: Wed, 07 Feb 2018


Executive Summary

Consumer Behaviour is an aspect that is being very vital in the globe of marketing. Food is a basic requirement for all the livelihoods and consumers require maximum satisfaction on the products they choose. Now consumers are more conscious about their health and choose nutritious food though they are expensive. Today’s consumers are increasingly displeased with GM (Genetically Modified) and conventional food and are therefore stirring up to organic food. Many consumers are going organic not only towards food even towards clothing, beauty products, skin care and also paper. Organic food is not only healthier due to its ethical ways of production which do not use man-made chemicals and redundant preservatives as opposed to conventional food. It is also eco-friendly due to environment cognizant methods which are used for the production of organic food. The benefits of organic food are more whereas the disadvantages (such as price premium) are negligible when compared to its betterment. Regular buyers of organic food are willing to overlook this minor disadvantage when compared to its other disadvantages which affect their health. In spite of the debates, consumers prefer organic food to conventional food because it removes the question of eating food that is unnatural or food that is not eco-friendly. In this research work the consumer behaviour towards organic food in United Kingdom is studied and compared with that in India. The factors (such as consumer expectations, beliefs, criteria, concerns, quality, awareness etc) that affect marketing of organic food in UK and India are also studied with relevance to consumer behaviour.


To successfully complete this dissertation was the most significant challenges I ever had. I would like to thank God and my parents who believed in me gave me full encouragement and support. Simon Speller, my supervisor who was very kind enough to help me out despite his academic and other commitments. I wish to express my warm and sincere thanks to him who encouraged me and guided me throughout my research study. His wisdom, immense knowledge and commitment to the high standard motivated and inspired me. He was always accessible and enthusiastic to help his students. Without his patience and directions I would have found it hard to complete my dissertation. I would like to thank specially my Module leader Yi Zhu, who encouraged me and never hesitated to help me out during my study. I immensely thank my friends and employees of the stores who were always there to lend me their hand.


1.1 Background

This research work revolves around the consumer behaviour and attitude towards organic food in United Kingdom and in India. A concise introduction will be given on consumer behaviour and how vital it is in the field of marketing. Secondly, an intense understanding of the term organic will be known. Many theories and phases associated with organic food will be emphasized and assessed in this dissertation. A various number of consumers of organic and conventional food are approached and consulted to get their views and estimation towards organic food. Not all the consumers approach towards organic food seems to be alike; consequently the application of certain statistical method helps us in further understanding the relation and the patterns in the consumer behaviour styles and trends in organic food in the two countries. This also helps us to identify how the consumers in UK and in India differ from each other and also we could recognize the ways they are similar in. On the whole, the similarities and differences between the consumers of organic food in UK and in India are deliberated. To obtain this information many respondents were requested to answer questionnaire concerning this topic and later on these answers were analysed using statistics. In the end these are discussed and limitations and conclusions are given and suggested.

1.2 Introduction to organic food

Organic food is grown and produced using some production standards. The conventional pesticides, chemicals, fertilizers used for the production of conventional food are not used for organic farming. The organic farms are also free from human and industrial wastes. No artificial food additives and ionization process is used. Previously, organic food were grown only in private gardens and small farms thus making it only available in farmer markets or family run small stores. Nowadays, organic food is widely available. But there are a lot of standard and certifications that the sellers should possess to market the fruit and vegetables. There are heavy regulations in the organic fruit and vegetable industry. The organic food sales are expected to grow by a large percentage in the near future.

1.3 General Aim

The aim of the study is to find out the consumer behaviour and approach towards the consumption of organic food in UK and in India. The elements and factors (health factors, eco-friendliness, production methods, ethics, taste, quality, safety standards etc) influencing the consumer’s decision making are also studied.

1.4 Research Questions

  • How does the consumer behaviour towards organic food vary between India and UK?
  • In what ways do consumers in the two countries expect the food to be different from convenience foods?
  • What are the popular beliefs among consumers about organic food?
  • When will India accept organic food widely, the way UK has?
  • What makes organic food to be preferred more than convenience food?
  • Why is there a variance between the preference rate and sales of organic food in both India and UK? What are the factors owing to this?
  • How do the attitudes of Indian consumers differ from that of the British with respect to organic food?

The above given question is the main aim and the biggest question for this study and research work. There are of course many sub questions as well which will also be researched in the course of this study. The question speaks about finding out the attitude differences in both the country’s consumer behaviour but the study might also prove the similarities in both the country’s consumer behaviour patterns towards organic food.


2.1 Introduction

In the literature review, the studies of previous research work by other researchers are conducted. This helps us to recognize what other research works have arrived at with relevance to consumer behaviour and organic food. It is of big help because it has allowed the perception of consumer behaviour in regard with organic food especially in the United Kingdom and India because research work is proposed to be more specific rather than being more generalized. Theories and patterns are analyzed from previous research work which helps us to comprehend the topic better.

It’s a framework which basically positions down the strategy for the research work. The concepts, theories, cases, models etc used for the presentation of the research are basically elucidated for understanding the study being carried out. In this dissertation, a few theories and models will be analyzed and discussed.

2.2 The effect of organic food on the environment

The production of organic food is not harmful to the soil, water, air or even the flora and fauna in the sense that they do not release any toxins or harmful substances into the environment or the ecology as a whole. The energy consumed for organic farming is much lesser than the level of energy needed for conventional farming methods thereby helping energy conservation process. The usage of pesticides for farming of conventional food contains a great percentage of harmful toxic chemicals which have a negative impact on the health of the farmers, those living in the locality of the farms and the people who consume them. The aquatic animals in the water bodies near the farms and the birds which feed on the produce of these farms suffer various genetic problems and disorders which are mostly fatal.

2.3 Level of nutrients

The content of nutrients in organic food are around 40% to 60% greater than that of the contents in conventional food. The level of antioxidants in organic food is up to 40% greater than in conventional food. These anti-oxidants are necessary for the normal well being of a person and helps in reducing the risks of various diseases and disorders. A large number of organic food consumers say it is much sweeter, tastier, better textures and firm than conventional food.

2.4 Cost:

Organic food are anywhere between 5% and 40% more expensive than conventional food. This is due to the use of the standards and processes applied for its farming. It is more labour intensive because it is more difficult to farm organic food because they are prone to getting rotten easily if the standards and physical conditions are not met with. It uses more natural farming methods and is more often produced on a small scale level. Most countries import organic food and therefore it is more expensive than similar fruits which are produced conventionally.

2.5 Organic certificate:

Most consumers of organic food think it is healthier for them. But to be sure what is being consumed is organic; one has to look for the certificate of organic food. To be certified as organic, a minimum of 95% of it must be organic. The rest 5% has stringent rules and standards. Synthetic chemicals or other processing standards are not acceptable. The food from a particular farm can be certified organic only if the farmer of that particular farm has been producing organic food for a minimum of 3 years.

2.6 Pleasure of going organic:

Whether it is a psychological factor or not, it is not clear yet, but majority of organic food consumers on the whole feel it is tastier than conventional food. They also have the content feeling because they feel they are doing the environment better by opting to go organic. In today’s mechanical times, most people are busy and hardly have time to prepare a proper meal with all the ‘good’, healthy contents that are necessary for a healthy, balanced diet thereby opting for food that is convenient to get and make in most ways. Many old timers find the taste of food constantly decreasing. For instance, watermelons used to taste as sweet as sugar in India about 30 years ago, but now sugar needs to be added to make it sweet enough to drink its juice or make a fruit salad out of it. A survey conducted by the Soil Association in 2005 included a representative sample of 1000 people who were questioned about what they considered important while buying organic food. 95% said it was the taste and quality that mattered, 57% said price was considered while making a purchase. (Simon Wright, 2008)

2.7 Ethical factors and responsibility affecting choice:

An average shopper for food in the supermarket is faced with so many dilemmas and attractive offers and discounts such as super savers etc. Many shoppers also succumb to these attractive offers on convenience food, but there are also a considerable percentage of shoppers who overcome these dilemmas and go in for organic food. Some of the shoppers are so loyal and inclined towards organic food that the thought of buying convenience foods never even crosses their minds. Most of them are considered about whether the farmers are given fair treatment and paid what they deserve (fair trade) and also concerned about the ecological friendly measures taken up while farming of these food which are better for the environment as well.

Most of the non shoppers of organic food who prefer the convenience farmed foods do so mainly because of the price factor; some of the shoppers of organic food too think so. More shoppers prefer buying their organic food from the local farmer markets and small time local suppliers rather than the super markets because they feel the ‘stuff’ there is fresher and also the farmers will be getting a better deal off it. Those who prefer buying it from the supermarkets do so mainly because of accessibility constraints.

2.8 History of organic food in India:

The concept of organic food is not new to India. At the beginning of the 19th century, Sir Albert Howard, one of the most important pioneers of organic farming, worked in India for many years studying soil plant interactions and developing composting methods. In doing so he capitalized on India’s highly sophisticated traditional agricultural systems which had long applied many of the principles of organic farming (for instance mixed cropping, crop rotation with legumes and botanical pesticides and so on)

Through the introduction of the Green revolution, agricultural technology in the 1960s reached the main production areas of the country, there were still certain areas (especially the mountainous regions), and communities( especially certain tribes) that did not adopt the use of agro chemicals. Therefore, some areas can be classified as organic by default, though their significance and extent has been over emphasized in recent statements made by the government officials and NGO representatives. However, an increasing number of farmers have started consciously abandoning the use of agro chemicals and now produce organically.

In the olden times in India, organic food farming was the main source of income for most of the people inhabiting the rural areas of India and it was also the major exporter to the world. In the 1960s, due to famines, droughts and extreme food shortage, the Indian Government started the idea of Green Revolution which made the farmers switch over to harsh chemicals for fertilizers, pesticides etc to multiply and increase the food production by a great level. This led to the sidelining of the usual organic farming methods of using natural fertilizers and pesticides which was obtained from plants and animals. Slowly in course of time, the Green revolution started decreasing the soil fertility, and the crops started getting immune to the harsh chemical fertilizers and this also started affecting nature as a whole and the environment as such. Therefore, a large number of farmers are moving back to the organic ways of farming and thus helping the surroundings as well apart from the consumers. Genetically modified foods which were acceptable during the Green revolution period are now totally detested by most people and has a lot of negative aspects. Most of the big supermarkets in India have a separate section allotted for organic foods which are gaining a lot of demand and attention by the domestic market. (http://www.agricultureinformation.com/forums/organic-farming/15397-organic-farming-exports-food-consumption-india.html)

According to a small recent survey taken in Mumbai, India, awareness about the presence of organic food is quite low. 25% of the respondents were aware of the availability of organic food and 36% out of them actually used them. The main reason for the use of organic food attributed towards the benefits it had on the consumer’s health. When compared to consumers of organic food in the United Kingdom, the Indian consumers did not mention the benefits it had regarding the environmental factors. It generally had a minor relevance to the Indian consumers of organic food. Most of the organic consumers had a purchase frequency of buying the food on an average of once a month. The purchase rate of organic food to conventional food was a ratio of 1:10 respectively. Most people in India do not consume organic food and organic food in general due to the fact that they are not aware that such a thing exists at all. When posed with the question if they would buy organic food because it was healthier for them, all the non consumers and non buyers of organic food answered they would buy it solely because of the reason that it was better for their health.

The domestic market for organic food is nowhere near as great as the export market for it. Indian domestic consumption of organic food is only a meager 7.5% of the entire organic fruit and vegetable production, the rest of which is directed towards the export market which is very great as Indian organic farming techniques are one among the best in the world and the resources are natural and pure in India. Most of the domestic consumption of organic food in India is seen in the big urban cities such as Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkota, Delhi, Hyderabad to name a few. These cities are noted to be inhabited by the upper income groups of the country, thereby showing that the upper income groups are obviously the predominant consumers of organic food in India.

2.9 Growth in the domestic market in India for organic food:

There has been a considerable increase in the growth of demand and consumption of organic food in India. Many NGOs are aiding and assisting farmers to do better in their area of organic fruit and vegetable faming. Increase in demand by the local market in India for organic food are mainly because of health conscious factors, being aware about the product and its benefits, appealing marketing strategies and the ease of availability. These are the main factors considered according to some NGOs in India.

It is a myth that most of the organic produce is exported to foreign countries. Today market for organic food in India is on the rise. More than 50% of the produce is consumed by the domestic market. The rest is aimed for the export market. Most of the domestic market consumers in India prefer organic food especially in families with growing children due to the beneficial factors in them.



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Location: Organic Agri Business

Organic farming, exports & Food Consumption in India


2.10 Committed Organic Consumers

HDRA participating members completed a questionnaire on background information about the participant and their household. They answered precise questions about their behaviour as organic consumers – focusing on organic vegetables. Questions included weekly spend on vegetables, percentage of organic vegetables bought, factors to encourage purchasing and where and how regularly they bought organic vegetables. This information was analysed and combined with a brief literature review of research into committed organic consumers in the wider UK population.

Committed buyers tended to be older and more affluent than the UK population average, over two thirds were in social classes A, B or C1, compared to fewer than 50 per cent in the population at large and most lived in London and the South East (TNS, 2003; Padel and Foster, 2005). The majority of committed organic consumers spend was from the two groups of empty nesters whose children have left home and families with children under 5 years (TNS, 2003). TNS (2003) found fruit and vegetables were the main entry point to organic purchasing as 55 per cent tried them before any other category. Padel and Foster, (2005) identified that committed organic consumers took on a greater number of issues and motives, which varied depending on the product category. The two most important motivations were taste and health. TNS (2003) reported there was a “direct correlation between the extent to which consumers believe in the health and taste benefits of organic food and the number of categories they buy into”. Padel and Foster (2005) found personal health was a particularly strong driver among UK consumers and related it to an absence of residues and food safety although Zanoli (2004) identifies that across Europe health seemed to be the central motive for buying organic produce. Environment and animal welfare were growing in importance as drivers (Padel and Foster, 2005). Food origin was particularly important as 60 per cent of organic consumers were more likely to buy organic food if it originated from the UK compared to 38 per cent for whom it didn’t really matter (TNS, 2003). Price was often found as a barrier to purchasing although committed buyers had a higher willingness to pay (TNS, 2003). This is common across Europe (Zanoli, 2004). Organic consumers bought organic food an average of 12.8 times a year and average spend per shopping trip was £2.53 (TNS, 2003). Committed buyers spend more on average and buy more frequently than less committed buyers. The majority bought organic produce in Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose.

It is usually seen that most people who are regular buyers of organic food are either families with young children or old people. This in a way shows that organic food are preferred by those who want to maintain their health and stay fit. As for the more affluent people being regular buyers of organic food, the price premium for it justifies this behaviour.

2.11 Consumer Behaviour:

Consumer Behaviour is extensively studied in the field of marketing. Without consumers it is rigid for any sort of trade to run efficiently. Consumers are the raison-d-etre’ for a business’ mere existence. A business maybe a profit organization or even a non-profit organization. “The field of consumer behaviour is the study of individuals, groups, or organizations and the processes they use to select, secure, use and dispose of products, services, experiences or ideas to satisfy needs and the impacts that these processes have on the consumer and society”( Belch and Belch, 2007)).

From the marketing point of view, it is a significant factor to understand the consumer skillfully and to aid to their needs, wants and demands to be successful. A consumer is the centre of attention in case of most marketing techniques; after all, it is the consumers a business needs to move forward. In the case of organic food, a consumer might decide to buy it for its benefits on health or the environment or maybe because of the advertising for it is attractive. There are diverse factors that affect the consumer decision making process which is also discussed further.

2.12 Models of Consumer Choice:

2.12.1 The Cognitive Model:

Initially when consumers make a significant purchase, they may reflect on substitutes and discuss pros and cons with others with an intention of securing benefits and avoiding costs. This model is sometimes called the extended-problem solving model. (East, Wright and Vanhuele, 2008).

2.12.2 The Reinforcement Model:

Choice is controlled by the factors in the environment that reward and aid some alternatives more than others. Managerial control is attained by altering the consumer’s circumstances. Nevertheless what is pleasing to one person may not seem so to others and this limits persuasion. (East, Wright and Vanhuele, 2008).

2.12.3 The Habit Model:

The choice of consumers towards the product is sometimes controlled by managing stimuli (brand name, logo, pack features, colour attraction, etc) that have become allied with a product as a result of past purchases. Sometimes this is called stimulus control. (East, Wright and Vanhuele , 2008).

2.12.4 Consumer Behaviour Models:

The objective of consumer behaviour models is to provide description, explanation and prediction of purchase behaviour. On the identical side the models provide a conceptual framework and so help researchers to locate and to examine new ideas so as to enhance better enlightenment and predictions of behaviour. On the constructive side these models aid to organize research results and to demonstrate the density of decision processes involved in even a simple purchase, such as a can of soup in the local supermarket. On the unconstructive side most of the models can be criticized as providing no more than a description of a range of influencing variables. There are four main clusters of factors that have an outcome on purchase behaviour. They are – political, economic and technical; cultural and social; psychological; and marketing influences. (Bareham, 1995)

Theories make it smoother to comprehend a concept as they sketch the causes and effects that are possible and what to anticipate provided the input (the happening circumstance) is given. In most circumstances, it is easy to analyze whether practical situations are normal and satisfactory with the help of proven time tested theories.

2.13. Marketing Segmentation:

The market is divided into diverse segments based on their needs, tastes, income, and a lot of other criteria. Marketing segmentation is based on a lot of research and important factors to suit the requirements and purposes. Some of the marketing segmentation is as follows:

2.13.1. Geographic Segmentation:

This involves segmenting the market by location on the assumption that people living in one location will have similar needs, wants and preferences and these will differ significantly from people living in other locations. There are some obvious limits to this assumption. People all over the world drink Coca-cola and buy Japanese electronic goods for instance. When you think about it from the viewpoint of the consumer, most buying behaviour is actually local. Localized consumer behaviour is often expressed through the presence of a significantly large cultural or sub cultural group that is different from the main stream. There are also geographically based differences between consumers for reasons that are more complex or obscure. It is not immediately obvious why some sections of consumers have different behaviour than the other sections. But knowing that, they will do it can be important to the marketing strategy.

2.13.2. Demographic segmentation:

Demographic segmentation deals with the many ways if statistically categorizing all the people in a national population. For example, a national population can be divided into subgroups based on age, sex, income, education, occupation, social class, family size, race and religion. In a sense, there are also different ways of looking at the same individual consumer, because of course we belong to each of these groups. Different aspects of our identity will be relevant to different products at different times. Baby foods can only be marketed to parents of young children, for example and a middle-class, middle aged, middle income, middle manager is more likely to be in the market for an exercise bike than a motor bike. Some of the important specifics of demographic segmentation are


Age is perhaps the most frequently used demographic variable in marketing segmentation. One reason for this is that the lifecycle has been divided up by society into what seem to be easily recognizable groups that are clearly differentiated from one another- infants, children, teenagers, young adult’s food.


Dividing the market into male and female segments is another frequently used strategy. But even here, the old marketing certainties are breaking down. It used to be a safe bet for marketers to target do-it-yourself products exclusively at men and supermarket shopping at women. But with the larger increase in single occupant hose-holds and one parent families (most of them female), many more women are buying things that men would do if they were in a family. In addition, more women than men buy for other consumers.

Socio-economic status:

A person’s socio economic status is determined by education, income and occupation. Though there are many exceptions of course, these are three factors often in alignment. More highly educated people tend to do managerial and professional jobs that bring a relatively high income, and vice-versa. For obvious reasons most marketers are more interested in people with high socio economic status rather than low. Income is often considered the most important variable in this case because it is so easy to quantify and because it dictates entry to certain markets. But income by itself can be very misleading.

Psychological segmentation:

The attempt to come up with a practical form of consumer profile has concentrated on three areas of behaviour: activities, interests, and opinions.

Segmentation by usage:

This form of segmentation is based on information about volume and frequency of purchase for a given product. It is a popular way of segmentation of markets because there is a lot of readily available information about patterns of usage for most goods and services. In fact, with so many transactions now electronically recorded, a great deal more of data is available than is actually used. Perhaps the most familiar usage data is provided by the electronic point of sale (EPOS) used by supermarket checkouts. Not only are all the purchased items listed, together with their prices, but so is the date and exact time of purchase and the method of payment used.

Segmentation by benefit:

This form of market segmentation is based on knowledge of the benefits that consumers seek from that particular product. The task of the marketer is to include the appropriate characteristics- or the impression of them – in the design of particular goods or services. In a sense this kind of segmentation is at the entire marketing concept – find out what people want and provide it for them. (David a Statt)

Segmentation is very important for a firm or an industry to market its products strategically and for it to be a success. In the case of organic food, it comes under the category of food which is a basic necessity and therefore would appeal to and include a lot many segments in the markets. In this research study we are considering only the United Kingdom and India. So geographically these two countries are covered. Demographically the middle aged and the older people will be targeted age wise, both sexes, and the middle class and upper class levels will be targeted according to the socio economic status segmentation. Since the middle aged and older people usually are the ones who go shopping for food, they are targeted age wise, both men and women shop for it, and when it comes to socio economic status, the middle and the upper income groups are targeted as organic food are more expensive than conventional food. Many shoppers especially in India will give up the idea of buying food when it comes to the price factor that is not acceptable for them. That is the reason why the middle and upper income groups are aimed at here. Most people both in India and United Kingdom consume food every day. In India, no meal is complete without fruits or vegetables and in the United Kingdom, people are encouraged to consume food everyday with the healthy 5 a day concept though it is already a staple portion of a healthy meal. These segments are most suitable for being aimed at for marketing of organic food and therefore they are the target segments.

2.14. Decision making process

Decision makingcan be regarded as an outcome of mental processes leading to the selection of a course of action among several alternatives. Every decision making process produces a finalchoice.The output can be an action or an opinion of choice. There are many factors which are discussed below:

2.14.1 Communication Situation

The situation in which the consumer receives information about a product or service influences the buying decision of the consumer. For example, in the case of organic food, an advertisement speaking about the bad impacts of the chemicals used in conventional foods right when the buyer is suffering from food poisoning might influence the consumer to buy food that is healthier and does not involve the usage of chemicals responsible for food poisoning and therefore influence the consumer to go in for purchase of organic food in future.

2.14.2. Purchase Situation:

The sit

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