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The Consumer's Perspective on Organic Foods.

Food Market Commentary, Agriculture Canada, Ottawa. Vol 10, No. 4, Page 45-50.

Hay, J. (1989)

Organic Agriculture Study.

Food Development Division, Agriculture Development Branch, Agriculture Canada, Ottawa, August.

Hay, Jane. (1988).


Method: focus groups followed by telephone survey of 1000 consumers in 10 cities; random sample of primary grocery shoppers in households; May 1988

Conducted by baseline Market Research Limited, New Brunswick

Phase 1 - qualitative phase

- focus groups in 5 major cities

- participants were the primary grocery shopper in household, and about 50% had purchased some natural or organic foods during the past year;

- respondents indicated changing eating patterms during recent years; increased consumption of salads, steamed vegetables, fish and poultry;

- interest in specialty shops rather than one-stop super markets; preference for "less" rather than no chemicals of fertilizers; generally unalbe to define organic and natural.

Phase 2 - interviews

- 95% confidence is +/- 3% for the entire sample, and this decreases to 7% for subgroups;

- interest in organic coincides with increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and declining per capita consumption of meat products

- relative to consumption 5 years ago; 46% had increased vegetable consumption; 50% more poultry; about 50% were eating less red meat; driven primarily by health concerns (fat, fiber, calories, nutrition)

- perceptions of organic; perceived to be better quality, better tasting, healthier, more nutritous but less appealing than conventional products; results were common to those who had and who had not purchased organic

- pesticides were a concern to consumers; 71% wanted more controls; 17% said total elimination of pesticides in food is necessary; 68% agreed that most of the foods sold today are safe;

- of those who were purchasing organic, the primary reason given was that they did not want chemicals or additives in their food;

- consumer confusion, uncertainty about meaning of "natural", organic, wild.

Consumption Patterns

What organic foods have you purchased or consumed during past 2 years?

- 33% organic vegetables, 20% fruits, 10% meat; of these consumers, 68% buy or consume organic only occaisonally;

-25% indicated some likelihood that they would purchase organic vegetables; of these consumers, purchases are from a variety of sources, but grocery store and health food stores represent at most 30% of fruits and vegetables; the most important source is farmers' markets (approximately 40%). - the rest is from farm gate or grow your own;

- group most likely to purchase organic; younger, more educated and upper income;

- premiums no greater than 25% are generally the most consumers are willing to pay.

Copyright 1989 Hay, Jane Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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