The influence of subjective and objective knowledge on attitude, motivations and consumption of organic food

Joris Aertsens (Based at the Department of Agricultural Economics, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium and VITO, Flemish Institute of Technology Research, Boeretang, Belgium)
Koen Mondelaers (Based at the Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research (ILVO), Merelbeke, Belgium)
Wim Verbeke ((Information about the authors can be found at the end of the article.))
Jeroen Buysse (Based at the Department of Agricultural Economics, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)
Guido Van Huylenbroeck (Based at the Department of Agricultural Economics, Faculty of Bioscience Engineering, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Publication date: 25 October 2011

Abstract

Purpose

Although the organic market has expanded in recent years, it remains small. Some researchers argue that consumers' lack of knowledge concerning organic food is an important factor slowing down growth. This paper aims to focus on the factors influencing objective and subjective knowledge with regard to organic food production and the relationship between both types of knowledge and consumer attitudes and motivations towards organic food and its consumption.

Design/methodology/approach

A literature review is presented, relating to the impact of knowledge on behaviour in general and, more specifically, on organic food consumption. Several hypotheses are formulated concerning the relationship between objective and subjective knowledge, attitudes and organic food consumption and these are tested on organic vegetable consumption in Flanders (Belgium). Multiple regression models, a probit model and an analysis of variance are applied to a sample of 529 completed questionnaires (response rate=44 per cent). The respondents were selected in January 2007 using a convenience sampling technique. Socio‐demographic variables are used to check representativeness.

Findings

In the sample, the level of objective knowledge regarding organic vegetables is high. Attitudes towards the consumption of organic vegetables are generally positive. The strongest motivations for consuming organic vegetables are that they are produced without synthetic pesticides, are better for the environment, healthier, of higher quality and taste better. The strongest perceived barriers are overly high prices and lack of availability. Objective and subjective knowledge with regard to organic food production show a positive correlation. Higher levels of objective and subjective knowledge concerning organic food are positively related to a more positive attitude towards organic food, greater experience of it and a more frequent use of information. Membership of an “ecological organisation” (VELT) is also related to higher levels of knowledge. Some variables have a significant positive relationship with subjective knowledge, but not with objective knowledge. Attitude is significantly and positively influenced by subjective knowledge, VELT‐membership, norm, motivations and female gender. Perceived barriers have a significant negative influence on attitude. The likelihood of consuming organic vegetables is significantly and positively influenced by VELT‐membership, subjective knowledge, attitude, motivations and the presence of children in the household. Whilst objective knowledge, norm and female gender have a significantly positive influence on attitude towards organic vegetables, they have no significant influence on the likelihood of actually consuming organic vegetables.

Originality/value

Whilst several researchers argue that knowledge may be a very important factor in increasing organic food consumption, few have studied the mechanisms behind it. To the authors' knowledge this is the first paper describing the impact of knowledge on organic food consumption in such detail. By assessing the impact of knowledge, as well as other factors, on organic food consumption, greater insight is gained with regard to organic food consumption behaviour.

Keywords

Citation

Aertsens, J., Mondelaers, K., Verbeke, W., Buysse, J. and Van Huylenbroeck, G. (2011), "The influence of subjective and objective knowledge on attitude, motivations and consumption of organic food", British Food Journal, Vol. 113 No. 11, pp. 1353-1378. https://doi.org/10.1108/00070701111179988

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Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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