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Consumer buying behaviour of organic food and the role of eco-labels in Delhi-NCR

Student Name: Mr Neeraj Dangi
Guide: Dr Sapna A. Narula
Year of completion: 2021


The demand for organic food products is increasing due to increased awareness of health and environmental issues around the world. However, often the awareness and intention are not converted into behaviour due to various barriers like price or trust. This consumer ambivalence often differs across regions and demographic strata. Much of the previous research on organic food consumption has been done in developed economies. However, the market for organic food products is growing rapidly in an emerging economy like India. Currently, metro cities in India lead the market for organic food products. The research focused on one metro city i.e. Delhi-NCR (national capital region) due to it‘s large organic food market share. The prime objective of the research was to identify the various factors that affect the organic food purchase and the role eco-labels play in influencing their decision. Only third-party certified organic food was considered for research.

306 organic food buying households were surveyed by self -administered questionnaire through purposive sampling. Only those households buying organic food at least once a month were included. Organic food consumption pattern was also assessed to gauge organic food demand in Delhi-NCR. Theory of planned behaviour (TPB) was adapted to explore the attitude, subjective norms and the perceived behavioural control (PBC) sub-constructs as this has been used previously in green and health behaviour studies. Organic food demand was analysed through descriptive statistics. Multiple regression was used to analyse data from the theory of planned behaviour model. Further, path analysis was also performed on data from TPB. Other factors including sociodemographic data were tested through t-test and ANOVA. To test the effectiveness of various attributes of the existing organic food label system and potential eco-labels max-diff scale was adopted. This data was analysed through counts.

Fresh food commodities like fruits, vegetables and milk were the most sought organic food and drink products. Traditional small and large stores still dominated the purchase preference of most customers.

The adapted TPB model was found to be suitable for explaining organic food products. All sub-constructs in TPB were found positively impacting behavioural intention. However, subjective norms were the weakest among them showing the dominance of attitude and PBC. In Path analysis too all exogenous sub-constructs were also positively impacting the endogenous subconstruct (behavioural intention). However, it showed the attitude to be the weakest with subjective norms to be slightly better. But PBC had remained dominant and its relationship was stronger to intention in path analysis compared to regression analysis.

Consumers considered organic food valuable (to buy) and a healthy choice. The appearance was negatively affecting attitude, inferring that a good appearance may not lead to the sale of organic food always. Availability of organic food, past behaviour, affordability, knowledge of organic food, trust in organic food certification label and ease of purchase were found to be important factors that can impede or support consumer food purchase intention. Affordability was found important showing that higher affordability will increase purchase intention. The family impacts behavioural purchase intention of organic food. Secondary reference groups like friends and opinion leaders appeared to be not influential.

Freshness, label info and origin are considered important factors in the purchase. Organic food product brand does not influence consumer decision making. Gender was not influencing purchase but age was influential. Households with toddlers and or with teenage children are likely to be more favourable towards organic food consumption. Higher household income was generally observed to be more favourable in organic food consumption. Tertiary education seems to favour organic food consumption.

Consumers have low organic food label recall suggesting their limited knowledge and its usage during decision making. Current eco-labels are not helpful enough to make an organic food buying decision. Consumers prefer a measurable, quantitative and action-oriented label over current organic food labels. There appears to be a need to improve the current labelling system. The shift to quantitative and actionable labelling is more likely to convert consumers' concerns (intention) into action (behaviour). This is likely to assist them better in distinguishing between non-organic and organic and within different organic foods.

Health was considered most important followed by the environment in their decision making. Social factors seem to be a low priority. The results showed that organic food consumers in Delhi-NCR are more egoistic value-oriented and less altruistic compared to consumers in developed economies.

This is a demand-based study that can assist all stakeholders associated with the organic food market. The Conclusions & Recommendations, in the end, summarize the research and practical implications, derived from the present study.

This is a demand-based study that can assist all stakeholders associated with the organic food market. The conclusions in this study can be used to adapt and finalize a hybrid eco-label format. Researchers can conduct longitudinal study to acertain behavioural changes over a period of time. Further, the researchers can also evaluate the unorganized organic food market buying behaviour and compare it with the organized organic food sector in an emerging economy like India. The Conclusions & Recommendations, in the end, summarize the research and practical implications, derived from the present study.