This paper aims to examine how product knowledge influences consumers to consider available information before choosing between organic and non-organic options. As “certified organic” is based on a complex standard in the USA, many consumers have only partial understanding of the term. This research shows how that knowledge influences consumer evaluation of the options presented in the market.
A two-study experimental survey that offers respondents a choice between two canned soups, one organic and one not, along with front- and back-of-label information which they can decide to use is utilized. The two studies differ in inclusion of national brand.
Consumer behavior with respect to information significantly affects rationale for product choice, and higher levels of knowledge are associated with choice rationale. Objective and subjective knowledge influence information processing differently. Inaccurate knowledge displayed by consumers influences their information processing behavior.
While the survey stimuli are a realistic representation of two products, the online survey abstracts from in-store distractors that might influence behavior. The product chosen, while familiar and commonly consumed, is a low-involvement product which may reduce consumer effort.
Marketers of organic foods must understand the level of knowledge held by consumers, as well as the information that most influences their choices if the industry is to grow further.
This study contrasts subjective and objective knowledge about organic foods and calculates the degree to which consumers under- versus over-estimate “organic” in their ignorance. As such, the research offers insight into a well-established label claim that has yet to achieve significant market share.
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