Profiling organic food consumers: motivations, trust orientations and purchasing behaviour.
Article Type:
Consumer behavior (Surveys)
Consumers (Surveys)
Organic foods (Surveys)
Essoussi, Leila Hamzaoui
Zahaf, Mehdi
Pub Date:
Name: Journal of International Business and Economics Publisher: International Academy of Business and Economics Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Business, international; Computers Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2008 International Academy of Business and Economics ISSN: 1544-8037
Date: May, 2008 Source Volume: 8 Source Issue: 2
Canadian Subject Form: Consumer behaviour
Product Code: 9914412 Consumer Behavior
Geographic Scope: Thailand Geographic Code: 9THAI Thailand

Accession Number:
Full Text:

The purpose of the paper is to explore organic food consumer's profile in terms of motivations, trust orientations and point of sale behaviour. The paper draws on data from a survey with regular and occasional consumers of organic food. The findings highlight three main trust orientations related to brand and store, prior experiences, and uncertainty. Further, results show that there is positive relationship between consumers' motivations, their trust orientations, and the choice of points of sale. Those trust orientations appear to be good discriminators between regular and non-regular consumers. Lastly, age, gender, satisfaction, choice of point of sale, and monthly spending are good predictors of the profile of typical organic food consumers.

Keywords: Organic food, Trust, Motivations, Points of sale, Consumer behavior


The organic market is a niche market within the agricultural industry and originated approximately 15 years ago. The organic food (OF) industry is being revamped because the organic farming "industry" eliminates a number of concerns that consumers hold towards conventional food production. Growing demand for OF products has also been attributed to a response to food-scares including widespread concern and resistance to the introduction of genetically modified organisms in the food chain. The OF industry integrates all aspect of a pesticide-fertilizer free production process using specific standards and is subject to a rigorous certification system. Since the mid-1990s, Canadian organic food retail sales in dollar value have been growing at a rate of 20% per annum. At the same time, conventional food retail sales have only grown at a 3% to 4% annual rate (MacRae et al., 2002).

In relation to growth potential of consumer demand, many surveys have identified and ranked motivations for buying organic food. Consumers purchase OF mainly for the following reasons: OF is seen as healthier and more nutritious, no chemicals are used, tastes better than conventional food, and organic farming is kinder to the environment (Fotopoulos and Kryskallis, 2002; Larue et al., 2004; Wier and Calverley, 2002). More generally, drivers for OF consumption in term of life values fall into three main broad categories ranked as follow: values centered on the human being, on the environment, and on animals' well being. However, there is some indication that the importance of these motivations may vary depending on the type of consumers, as well as desires, willingness to pay a premium price, and point of sale preferences (Hamzaoui and Zahaf, 2006).

Overall, consumers have strong concerns about risks associated to food consumption, leading them to adopt risk reduction strategies (like brand loyalty, store image, etc.), all related to information search. In order to reduce the perceived risks linked to food consumption, consumers will use these strategies, or quality indicators, depending on how much they trust them. However, when it comes to OF, there is a need to uncover which quality indicators consumers trust the most, and to what extend the use of those indicators vary with the type of OF consumers.

Since there are specific motivations but also quality issues associated to OF consumption, this study aims to understand why consumers buy OF in relation to the importance of the level and nature of their trust orientations. We aim in this paper to address the following issues:

i. determine the different trust orientations with regards to the OF labelling, OF brands, and points of sale,

ii. profile organic food consumers using their trust orientations and motivation to buy organic products,

iii. explore the relationship between consumers' level of trust and their motivations.

This allows us to not only profile consumers with regard to their trust orientations and motivations but also to contrast between the different groups of organic food consumers.

The paper opens with an overview of the literature on organic food and the consumer, followed by the research hypothesis. Next, the methodology and results of our empirical research are detailed. Then the discussion section comments on the major findings. Finally, the concluding part summarises the major points of the study and presents future areas of research.


Organic Food Consumers' Profile

The issues of profiling OF consumers is rather a mature field in Europe with a well established literature (eg. Makatouni, 2002; Verdurm et al., 2002; Baker et al., 2004; Zanoli and Naspetti, 2002). Several studies indeed segment OF consumers on the basis of: attitudes toward OF and purchase intentions, demographic factors, food-related lifestyles, and frequency of purchase. Based on these segmentations, scholars have profiled organic buyers to describe who they are and what their purchase intentions are (cf. Davies et al., 1995; Fotopoulos and Krystallis, 2002; Roddy et al., 1994). Some studies agree on the socio-demographic profile of organic food buyers: they are mainly women, buying in larger quantities and more frequently than men. Although age is not an important factor, younger consumers show a higher willingness to buy due to their greater environmental concerns but cannot always afford it. More specifically, Cunningham (2001) characterizes the Canadian organic consumer profile based on the findings from the Environics International Food Issues Monitor Survey 2000 and the Canadian Healthfood Association Survey 2000. Cunningham (2001) reports that a total of 71% of Canadians have at least tried OFs. Among those people who have tried organics, 18% are frequent buyers, 22% are infrequent buyers and 31% are occasional buyers. However, these findings provide just a general description of OF consumer's profile without digging into the "why" and "how" they make their purchase decisions. Further, based on his observation of the OF industry, Tutunjian (2004) notices that OF consumers share attitudes and values rather than demographics (cf. Brunso and Grunert, 1998; Brunso et al., 2004; Cunningham, 2001; Davies et al., 1995; Fotopoulos and Krystallis, 2002; Roddy et al., 1994).

Consumer Motivations

Most consumers express more than one motive for buying organic food (Baker et al., 2004; Hamzaoui and Zahaf, 2006; Padel and Foster, 2005; Zanoli and Naspetti, 2002). Studies conducted with UK, German, and Italian OF consumers highlight life values that fall into three main broad categories: values centered on the human being, on the environment, and on animals' well being (Baker et al., 2004; Makatouni, 2002; Zanoli and Naspetti, 2002). Although similarities emerge with respect to main values between the three studies, the dominant perceptual orientations of UK, German, and Italian OF consumers differ widely. Issues of food quality but also "eating to enjoy" are important motivations for OF consumption in Greece and in Italy (Fotopoulos et al., 2002; Zanoli and Naspetti, 2002). Verdurme et al. (2002) enforce these results by showing that cultural differences cause consumers in different countries to have various perceptions and motivations with regard to OF. Cultural differences lead consumers of various countries not only to have various values, but also various means of reaching these values at the time of their purchase decisions.

More generally, the level of development of the OF market is also regarded as being able to influence the ranking of the motivations for organic food purchase (Lampkin, 1992). In the Canadian context consumers identify health, the environment, and the support of the local farmers as being their principal values explaining their organic food consumption (Hamzaoui and Zahaf, 2006). Interestingly, a social responsible behaviour motivating consumers is to support local farmers, which is sustained in only few previous research works on organic food consumption, mentioned as "support for the local economy".

In relation to health, organic products are perceived as less associated with health risks than their conventional counterparts (Williams and Hammit, 2001). Health protection still remains for numerous consumers the main motivation for buying organic food. Personal experience with ill health but also more general concerns about healthy eating are observed, the latter being mainly affected by overall trends in consumption (Padel and Foster, 2005). Moreover, OF consumption is also associated more with chemicals avoidance than nutritional benefits (Hamzaoui and Zahaf, 2006). Consumers' desire to maximize their personal health and wellbeing highlights an important motivation: the need of reinsurance. This implies that consumers search for several indicators to reduce the perceived risks linked to food consumption.

Perceived Risk and Perceived Quality

With the intensification of the agricultural production and the food industrialization, more and more consumers are preoccupied by the effects of industrial products and food technologies, leading to strong concerns about risks associated to the consumption of these products. Consequently, research on perceived risk in food consumption has been relaunched (Bergadaa and Urien, 2006; Brunel and Pichon, 2002; Green et al., 2005). Food consumption is closely related to physical risk that is a major risk (Gallen, 2001), and therefore OF seem to present less risks than their conventional counterparts in terms of health. Moreover, consumers will look for risk reduction indicators or strategies through information search when they are in a dubious situation. Risk reduction strategies have been widely studied (Roselius, 1971; Gallen, 2001; Brunel, 2003; Bergadaa and Urien, 2006), and among these strategies are: positive evaluation of the brand, loyalty to the brand, point of sale image, government labels, refund guarantee, and quality information.

In food consumption, the perceived quality is a central piece, and is evaluated by consumers on several dimensions. Perceived quality is influenced by quality indicators (Olson, 1977) such as intrinsic (appearance, shape, size, etc.) and extrinsic (price, brand name, origin, and point of sale). Perceived quality is also influenced by consumer experiences and more importantly by the trust consumers have toward the quality indicators and their sources (Gurviez, 2001). In their study, Brunel and Pichon (2002) specify that some risk reduction strategies are closely linked to trust toward the risk reduction transmitter, and indirectly toward signs transmitted at the institutional level as well as the product level. These transmitters are the producer, the retailer, the government or any independent organism. This leads to consider trust toward the producer (through the brand, country of origin of the product, etc.), the retailer (brand loyalty, point of sale image, etc.), and the government (official quality signs like certification labels).

Trust and Trust Orientations

To facilitate choices in complex food markets, trust is an essential element. In general terms, trust is seen as "an expression of the alternative to have to make an individual decision, and just assume that food is safe" (Green et al., 2005; p.525). More specifically, there are particular information sources and organizations that are trusted to either provide safe food or to provide trustworthy information about that food.

Considering the risks associated with product consumption, consumers will search for and adopt several risk reduction strategies (Mitchell and McGolrick, 1996; Brunel, 2003): brand image as trust in the brand does affect trust in the product (Gurviez, 1999; Gurviez and Korchia, 2002), but also store image or label references are all means to built trust in the product. Studying OF consumption, Sirieix et al. (2004) highlights several trust orientations defined as indicators consumers rely on in order to "trust". She presents two sets of trust orientations: trust oriented toward several quality indicators, and trust oriented toward individuals. Therefore, trust can be oriented toward the brand, the label, but also toward partners like producers. But when it comes to OF consumption, brand does not appear to be the main source of trust (Sirieix et al., 2004).

Issues of labelling and certification also still prevail as consumers are either unfamiliar with or confused by labelling, or do not know to what degree they can trust certification labels. Labels can potentially help consumers in reducing their uncertainty about product quality. But labels only communicate the superior quality of the product in certain conditions, one of them being consumer awareness (Grunert et al., 2001). Based on their knowledge, consumers' trust in their own judgment about a quality indicator like a label might also influence their assessment of the quality of the product. Moreover, the source of the label has to be trusted, which leads to the issue of the credibility of public versus private certification organizations.

And last, consumers seem to be ambivalent about points of sale, trust emerging here as an important factor in deciding where to buy OF. Therefore, studying trust orientations regarding OF is all the more important that the recent increase in OF consumption showed that it is strongly related to the trust of the consumers in their food. Overall, it is important to note that distribution, price, brand, certification, and labeling are all linked to consumers' level of trust when consuming OFs (Hamzaoui and Zahaf, 2006). There seems to be a need for consumers to be able to trust both the product and any organism certifying this product.

Channels of Distribution

In terms of distribution channels, the organic market is characterized by the importance of direct sale and specialty stores that are mainly attracting regular consumers. In countries where specialty stores and supermarkets coexist, the new and occasional OF consumers tend to purchase organic products in supermarkets (1). Whereas supermarkets entered only later on this market, they are increasingly successful and represent a significant part of the market. Nevertheless these points of sale suffer from a lack of trust but also from a concern about the incompatibility of marketing organic food (Padel and Foster, 2005; Sirieix et al., 2004), especially for regular consumers. On the contrary, specialty shops are highly associated with personal relationships, knowledge, and trust (Hamzaoui and Zahaf, 2006; Padel and Foster, 2005). In Europe, consumers admit shopping for OF in supermarkets for the sake of convenience. Supermarkets do offer for some consumers a more pleasant environment as well as an improved range and quality of products (Padel and Foster, 2005). But overall, these consumers remain less confident in their retailing channel than consumers buying in specialty stores and through direct sales. These results are directly linked to the perceived risks pertaining to food consumption, lack of knowledge regarding organic products, and trust or lack of trust toward different types of points of sale.

Research Hypotheses

Consistent with the current literature, it is obvious that we are dealing with consumers that have specific consumption patters in terms of point of sale choices, motivations, involvement with the purchase, impacts of the purchase on their health, the environment and society as a whole. Hence, it is a multidimensional and complex purchase framework that we are dealing with. The typical organic product consumer is looking for healthier and sustainable products, and more importantly products they trust. Consumers buy organic products when they trust the producer, the certification process, the brand and/or the store they buy from. OF consumers shop from supermarkets, specialty stores, local markets, or directly from the farmers. Further, the most knowledgeable consumers are expected to buy from the shortest channel since their decision is based on a high level of trust between them and the producers (cf. Hamzaoui and Zahaf, 2008). Conversely, typical organic products consumers trust the labels and specialty stores (cf. Hamzaoui and Zahaf, 2006). Hence it appears that the consumption patterns of organic products consumers are based on different trust dimensions or orientations. Intentions to buy are influenced by trust, knowledge, price, and other factors (cf. Anton et al., 2007).

Following a review of the relevant literature, a set of research hypotheses has been developed accordingly. As per the profile of the organic product consumers, there is a well established literature with a wide variety of studies that tried to profile consumers using socio-demographic indicators, frequency of purchase, etc. (cf. Davies et al., 1995; Baker et al., 2002; Solomon et al., 1999). In this study we aim to explore a different grouping strategy. This helps to differentiate between regular consumers and nonregular consumers of OF using their trust orientations.

Hypothesis 1: Profiles of regular and non regular organic food products consumers is determined mainly by their monthly spending, OF product category point of sale choice, and satisfaction.

It is obvious that regular organic food consumers (RC) are different from non-regular organic food consumers (non-RC) in many ways. According to Sirieix et al. (2004) there are different levels of trust intervening in the decision making process of organic food consumers. In this research, trust orientations are explored in conjunction with the type of consumers to test if there is a significant difference between RC and non-RC in terms of trust.

Hypothesis 2: RC and non-RC have different trust orientations with regard to brands, organic labeling, and points of sale.

In addition to exploring trust differences between RC and non-RC, one have to find out if consumers' trust orientations are related to their choice of the points of sale. This helps to understand the differences between the "preferred" or "most used" point of sale and the "trusted" point of sale. This in turn gives an idea about how consumers decide about using a given channel and not another one. Further, points of sale are maybe chosen because of high levels of trust in the store, the brand it carries, or consumers' knowledge. Hypothesis 3 aims to explore this.

Hypothesis 3: The choice of point of sale varies with consumers' trust orientations.

In terms of the "why" consumers buy organic products, it appears that health, sustainability, buying locally, are some of the most important reasons for buying organic. However, we don't have a clear association between (i) the motivations to buy OF and the type of OF consumers, and (ii) the motivations to buy OF and consumes' trust orientations.

Hypothesis 4: Consumers' motivations to buy organic food products is positively related to their trust orientations.

To complete the set of hypotheses, we address the issue of the choice of the point of sale. The idea to build on Hypothesis 3 and to analysis the relationship between consumers' motivations and their choice of the points of sale. Hypothesis 5 covers this.

Hypothesis 5: There is a positive relationship between consumers' motivations and their choice of point of sale.


Sampling and Data Collection

The population targeted for this study is OF shoppers. For purpose of gaining a good representation, respondents needed to fit within a specific profile. The idea was to select randomly organic food respondents that make their purchase mainly in specialty stores or local markets. Data has been collected in two administration modes. First, a paper copy of the questionnaire was used to interview respondents in two Canadian cities. Then an electronic version of the questionnaire was posted on the Internet. The paper version of the survey was to a large extend administered in stores carrying exclusively organic food products while the procedure for the online survey was somehow different. The reason why there was less paper version of the questionnaire administered in super/hypermarkets is purely one of authorization to survey customers in the store. Consumers that filled out the online version of the survey were selected using coupons. Basically, an Internet based version of the questionnaire was created. Coupons promoting the Internet address (URL of the survey) were randomly distributed outside the desired stores in order to balance the proportion of consumers shopping in different points of sale. A total of 350 questionnaires were collected, and 324 questionnaires were usable. The bias is obvious here, consumers are pre-screened based on store selection and in order to get broad range of OF consumers the stores were chosen carefully to be as diverse as possible.

Measurement and Reliability

To test the abovementioned hypotheses, a structured questionnaire was designed to gather data that measure the variables used in this research. Prior to administering the survey, a pre-test was done and minor modifications were made. The questionnaire is structured into three sections. Section 1 deals with consumers' general opinion about organic food and reasons for buying organic. This is a set of questions to evaluate respondents' consumption and shopping habits as well as their general opinion about OF. Next, respondents were asked questions to assess on a 5-point Likert scale reasons why they buy organic food products. The second section of the survey deals with level of trust, using questions that measure the general level of trust toward OF products, stores carrying those products, brands and organic labels. Finally, section 3 is structured to design a socio-demographic profile of our respondents. Most of the questions in the survey were adapted from Sirieix et al. (2004), and Fotopoulos and Krystallis (2002).

All variables were tested to check their internal consistency. Further, all reliability tests were coupled to a series of factor analyses to determine the structure of the data. Factor analyses also helped testing if the items were measuring the right constructs. Results showed that Cronbach alphas were in the range of 0.727 to 0.850, which is good for an exploratory study (Hair et al., 2006). All variables except "trust" have a unidimensional structure with factors loading ranging from 0.583 to 0.893. With regards to "trust", we first ran a factor analysis to determine the dimensions of trust embedded within the 13 questions. Three dimensions were found: (i) brand and store trust: trust in the brand and the store where the purchase is made, (ii) prior experiences: all information related to prior experiences with the product and involved in building trust with regards to trusted labels, brands, and points of purchase, and (iii) uncertainty: unknown factors such as lack of credibility of the organic labels, meaning of "organic", and lack of trust in the quality stated in the organic labels. Hence, the trust scale has been split into three scales with alphas raging from 0.589 to 0.774.

Data Analysis and Procedure

Data was cleaned and missing values were replaced using the mean. No missing values were replaced for all categorical scales (demographics characteristics and the behavioural indicators). Since our main focus is to classify consumers with regards to their trust orientations and motivation, we chose to run parametric tests and non-parametric tests. The survey included nominal questions as well as interval questions on different aspect of distribution and consumers' trust orientations and motivations. T-tests are well suited to explore differences in means between regular consumers (RC) and non-regular consumers (non-RC) while chi-square tests are used to test associations between variables. Hence, our algorithm of analysis works as follow:

Step 1. General Profile of Consumers: Consumers will be profiled according to all sociodemographic indicators

Step 2. Trust orientations: Explore RC and non-RC's trust orientations in relationship with consumers' points of sale choice.

Step 3. Motivations: Analyze the relationship between RC and non-RC's motivations and trust orientations and level of trust. Choices of points of sale will be also explored here.


General Profile of Consumers

Our sample is composed of 324 consumers. Consumers are classified as follow: if respondents buy organic at most once a month then they are classified as non-regular organic food consumers (non-RC) while if they consumer organic food very often then they are tagged as regular organic food consumers (RC). Respondents are distributed as follow: 62% of RC and 38% of non-RC. Further, the typical profile of our respondents reads as follow: female (69.7%); 25-35 age bracket (49.1%); single (34%) or married (37.7%); household is composed of 2 to 3 persons (47.8%); have at least an undergraduate degree (69.9%); works as a professional (26.9%) or is white collar (22.8%); buys at least 2 organic food products (90.8%); eats mainly organic fruits and/or organic vegetables (cf. Figure 1); buys organic food mainly from supermarkets (cf. Figure 2); spends on average $100 in organic groceries (58.4%); considers nutritional value; freshness, healthiness; and taste as the major factor for buying organic food product; and finally is happy with his/her organic consumption experience (90.8%).

Further, we ran a couple of cross-tabulations with Chi-square testing to explore the relationship between the different indicators; results are summarized in Table 1. It is important to note that almost all cross-tabulations were significant.

Table 1 shows the most important associations. Age as well as monthly spending, satisfaction, and OF product category are good predictor of the type of consumer. It is also easily seen that 35% of non-RC spend at most $100 in OF groceries while only 25.1% of their RC counterpart spend the same amount. Further, 31.4% of RC have a monthly spending in OF groceries of $100 to $400. This is explained in part by the type of products bought by these consumers (cf. Table 2 for more details). All OF categories are evenly represented for RC while most non-RC buy mainly fruits (27%) and vegetables (28.3%). Hypothesis 1 is confirmed.

Trust Orientations

There are three dimensions of trust considered in this research: (i) brand and store trust, (ii) prior experiences and (iii) uncertainty. We ran a three t-test for independent samples and the results are conclusive for the uncertainty, and brand and store trust (cf. Table 3). This means that RC and non-RC perceive differently the uncertainty in terms of credibility of organic labels, meaning of "organic", and lack of trust in the organic label claims. Moreover, non-RC show a higher degree of uncertainty on all trust items than RC. This is expected because we could assume that non-RC are still unsure about what organic is.

Moving to trust towards the brands and stores, we notice that even though there is not any significant difference between RC and non-RC, both types of consumers score high on that scale. This means that RC and non-RC trust the brands and the store from where they respectively buy OF products. In addition, it is important to note that all consumers score high on the trust dimension related to prior experiences even if the results are not conclusive. Hence, RC and non-RC have the same--high--level of trust when it comes to their prior experiences with the store and organic labels. This is directly related to consumers' loyalty and their habitual purchase pattern, i.e., a consumer wants to use the same point of sale and same product or organic label if they are satisfied with their purchase.

In order to test this, we explore the relationship between consumers' satisfaction and their prior experience for building trust. The chi-square test was conclusive (sig. = 0.000 < 5%) showing that satisfaction determines the type of consumers, i.e., RC or non-RC. Most of the RC are satisfied (38.3%) or very satisfied (59.7%) with their previous organic consumptions while 52.6% of non-RC are satisfied and only 25.4% of them are very satisfied.

To recapitulate, hypothesis 2 is partially confirmed. RC and non-RC perceive differently the uncertainty in terms of credibility of organic labels, what "organic" is, and lack of trust in the organic label claims.

Points of Sale

Hypothesis 3 is here to be tested. We first tested the relationship between the type of consumer (RC versus non-RC) and most used points of sale using cross-tabs and Chi-square tests, and then we tested the association between trust orientations and choice of points of sale using t-tests (channel users versus channel non-users).

Most Used Points of Sale: Consumers were asked to check all their most used points of sale. A descriptive analysis of the data shows that 74.6% of all respondents buy at least from two different outlets. Further, the most used channel of distribution is the supermarket (31.22%), followed by the organic food stores (27.77%), and local markets (27.17%). As expected RC consumers represents the largest proportion of channels' users for all points of sale. In order to test if trust orientations are associated with the choice of the point of sale, t-tests were run. Results are summarized in Table 4.

Table 4 shows that channels' users have different trust orientations when adopting direct channels, organic food stores, and supermarkets. Further, these results hold true for the organic food stores regardless of all levels of trust as consumers behave differently on all trust orientations, i.e., prior experiences, uncertainty, and brand and store trusts. Also, farmers or organic producers channels' users and non-users have different levels of uncertainty and prior experiences. In fact, users have higher levels of trust related to prior experiences and lower uncertainties than non-users. Conversely, brand and store appear to be non-significant for direct channels. This makes sense since consumers use the direct channel if they know who the producer is and what the products are. The purchase situation and framework in this case is very context specific, and hence all consumers have the same trust orientation with regards to the brand and store.

As far as the supermarkets go, the only important trust orientation is the one related to the store and the brand, which is in accordance with Sirieix et al. (2004) findings. All consumers in this channel have the same trust orientation related to prior experiences and uncertainty. We may think that consumers base their entire trust on the place where they shop from and the product they buy. The crux of shopping at supermarkets is that these points of sale are the most used point of sale because of their convenience, and maybe not because they are the most trusted ones.

Further, Chi-square tests show that the only significant relationship is between on one hand, organic food stores users and non-users, and on the other hand the type of consumers, RC and non-RC. This means that users of a given channel do not determine if they are RC or non-RC of organic food. Hence, channels adoption is not an exclusive criterion to decide about the type of consumers. To recapitulate, consumers' trust orientations determine their choice of the most used channel of distribution.

Trusted Points of Sale: First of all, it is important to note that RC as well as non-RC used a variety of points of sale ranging from organic food stores to supermarkets. The most trusted point of sale is the organic food store followed by health food stores, and the direct channel producer-to-consumer. Interestingly enough, supermarkets ranked fourth ahead of local markets (all means higher than 3 on a 5-point Likert scale). Data has been recoded to address some of the complex issues related to distribution. Respondents were asked the following question "I can confidently buy this product in" for each of the 7 point of sale types. This was rated on a 5-point Likert scale ranging from 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = totally agree. Each item of the trusted point of sale scale has been recoded as follow: high trust consumers (score 4 to 5) and low trust consumers (score 1 to 3). 12 t-tests have been run to determine if there is a significant difference between high trust consumers and low trust consumers with regards to the levels of trust orientations (store and brand, uncertainty, prior experiences) for the 4 major points of sale (organic food stores, supermarkets, direct channel, and health food stores). Results are summarized in Table 5.

It is obvious from the results that not only consumers trust all points of sale to certain degrees, but also there are no major differences between RC and non-RC for all levels of trust. More specifically:

(i) RC and non-RC have different trust orientations with regard to organic food stores. Moreover, organic food stores are the most trusted points of sale. This is somehow self-explanatory as RC are assumed to know more about OF than non-RC, and hence they have less uncertainties, trust more the brand and the organic food stores, and finally, they have a good deal of trust based on their prior experiences.

(ii) RC and non-RC have the same level of trust and the same trust orientations towards supermarkets, health stores, and direct channels. Consumers trust all these points of sale to a certain extent. However, descriptive statistics confirm that that RC and non-RC shop occasionally in these stores as the highest frequencies are for organic food stores.

Hypothesis 3 is partially confirmed: consumers trust all points of sale but consumers' trust orientations intervene only when choosing to shop from an organic food store. Further, when it comes to the most used point of sale, it appears that trust orientations are the main cause for points of sale utilization.

Consumers' Motivations

In order to test Hypotheses 4 and 5, we need first to test if there is any significant difference between RC and non-RC in terms of motivations. Motivations have been measured with regards to consumers' involvement when buying OF products. Hence, consumers are assumed to buy OF because they think they are healthier, tastier, environmentally friendly, of superior quality, and finally more sustainable.

General Motivations and Trust Orientations: Results from the bivariate correlations show that consumers' motivations are related to two trust orientations: (i) positively to prior experiences (+ 0.215; sig. = 0.000 < 5%), and (ii) negatively to uncertainty (-0.247; sig. = 0.000 < 5%). There is no correlation between consumers' motivations and their trust with regards to the store and the brands. If consumers have positive prior experiences with the store, the product, or the brand then they will be more motivated to buy OF products. Moreover, if they do not have any uncertainty with regards to the labeling or the quality of the OF products then they will be more involved and motivated with their OF purchases. Lastly, trusting brands or stores does not intervene in consumers' motivation process (sig. = 0.089 > 5%).

RC versus non-RC Motivations: Overall, it appears that RC have different motivations then non-RC (t-test sig. = 0.000 < 5%). A couple of independent t-tests have been run to determine which dimension of consumers' motivation is significant. Table 6 summarizes the findings.

RC as well as non-RC score high on almost all motivation's items except the fourth dimension (quality). Hence, consumers are highly motivated to buy organic food and they perceive these products as healthier, tastier, environmentally friendly, of superior quality, and more importantly they believe that OF products could help the local economy. Having said that, RC and non-RC have different motivations when buying OF product. However, there is no significant difference in how RC and non-RC perceive the quality of OF products (t-test sig. = 0.072 > 5%). They score relatively low compared to other dimensions of motivation (RC = 3.91 and non-RC = 3.67).

Highly and Lowly Motivated Consumers: Consumers have been classified as highly motivated (HM) and lowly motivated (LM) using the same procedure as for the trusted points of sale. This helps to investigate if the consumers' motivations are related to their trust orientations. T-tests results show that there are differences between highly motivated consumers and lowly motivated consumers when it comes to prior experiences and uncertainty with regards to OF labeling and quality. Highly motivated consumers relate the health and quality dimensions of their involvement to their prior experiences (sig. = 0.001 < 5%) while all the other dimensions of their motivation, i.e., sustainability, quality, environmentally friendly, and taste, are related exclusively to their level of uncertainty. More specifically, compared to LM consumers, HM consumers weight heavily their prior experiences, perceive fewer uncertainties related to their involvement with the quality of the OF products, their taste, their sustainability and their environmental aspect. All these results allow us to state that Hypothesis 4 is confirmed.

Motivation and Points of Sale: Bivariate correlations show that there is clear relationship between the points of sale and consumers' motivation. This holds true for all points of sale except convenience stores (sig. 0.369 > 5%). Interestingly enough, t-tests were run to determine what differentiates between highly motivated and lowly motivated consumers. When it comes to health motivations, consumers trust only direct channels namely home delivery (sig. = 0.026 < 5%). Conversely, when considering taste and sustainability, highly and lowly motivated consumers reveal no difference in their channels choices. Basically they have the same behavior. Further, highly motivated consumers prefer buying from organic food stores when looking for quality and environmentally friendly products. Lastly, when quality is considered, highly motivated consumers prefer buying directly from the producer. Hypothesis 5 is then confirmed.


This study contributes to the actual body of literature in many ways. First we were able to reinforce Sirieix et al. (2004) results as we used a combination of her trust scales. Our findings show that there are three trust orientations that consumers hold toward OF products: brand and store trust, prior experiences, and uncertainty. Further, "prior experiences" is the most important trust orientation, followed by brand and store, and finally, uncertainty. This breakdown shows how consumers proceed when integrating their trust orientations in their decision making process. It is interesting to note that RC and non-RC have the same trust orientations toward their respective prior experiences, brands and stores. This is directly related to consumers' loyalty and their habitual purchase pattern, i.e., a consumer wants to use the same point of sale and same brand or organic label if they are satisfied with their purchase. However, RC have less uncertainties with regards to OF and organic labeling.

Second, we looked to study where RC and non-RC buy OF. We started with the points of sale. These consumers have a bipolar behavior: there is clear differentiation between trusted points of sale and most used points of sale. All consumers in our sample used at least two of points of sales but the most used points of sale are supermarket, followed by organic food stores, and local markets. Whereas consumers have different trust orientations toward the different points of sale, brand and store appear to be non-significant for direct channels. This makes sense since consumers use the direct channel if they know who the producer is and what the products are. The purchase situation and framework in this case is very context specific, and hence all consumers have the same trust orientation with regards to the brand and store. Conversely, non-RC shop mainly from supermarkets as they have high uncertainties with regards to what organic is and organic labels credibility. Further, these consumers trust is based on brand and store selection rather that on a direct interaction with a salesperson or the producer per se (cf. Hamzaoui and Zahaf (2006, 2008) for more details).

Consumers behave differently when shopping from the trusted outlets. The most trusted point of sale is the organic food store followed by health food stores, and the direct channel, which confirms Sirieix's results (2004). In terms of most trusted point of sale, these results are in accordance with the results in Padel and Foster's study (2005), highlighting that the higher trust in organic food stores over supermarkets may be a reflection of wider anxieties about the food system. Regular consumers have less trust in supermarkets. It is important to note that trusted points of sale are different from most used points of sale as consumers take into account different factors for each type of purchasing situation such as their prior experiences with the products and the stores, or shopping convenience.

Next, we moved to the why RC and non-RC buy OF. Considering that motivations are determined in a pre-purchase setting, we looked for the nature of the relationship between OF consumers' motivation and their trust orientations. Hence, a hypothesis has been developed to test if there is a significant association between both variables. We were able to show that prior experiences as well as uncertainty are directly correlated with consumers' motivation. If prior experiences are positive and the level of uncertainty is low then their motivation will be high. Further, consumers with low levels of uncertainty have high levels of trust toward the brand and the store as the y know what organic means and they trust organic labeling.. Further, t-tests showed that RC and non-RC have different motivations when it comes to OF in terms of health, taste, environmental friendliness, and sustainability. Interestingly enough, RC and non-RC perceive OF as being good quality products. The analysis has been pushed further to explore the different levels of motivation and their relationship to consumers' trust orientations. More specifically, we proved that highly motivated consumers base their decision on their prior experiences, perceive fewer uncertainties related to the quality of the OF products, their taste, their sustainability and their environmental aspect. Lastly, it is also important to note that consumers score high on all motivations' items.

Since consumers' motivations to buy organic food products are positively related to their trust orientations, we explored the relationship between consumers' motivation and the choice of points of sale. It appears that highly motivated consumers have a specific purchasing scheme. They associate health to direct home delivery and quality is associated with organic food stores. Conversely there is no difference between highly motivated consumers and lowly motivated consumers with regard to taste and environmental friendliness. We can assume that each point of sale carries an image in consumers' mind. That positioning leads to certain degrees of basic motivation as more elaborate motivations are reached when there is a higher level of trust. For instance, organic food stores are thought of as points of sale carrying quality products by all consumers. However, highly motivated consumers make a very strong association between quality and organic food stores. Overall, there is clear relationship between consumers' motivation and their choice of points of sale.

Combining all the findings allows us to profile the typical OF consumer. This consumer is a married female who does her organic groceries preferably from trusted sources such as organic food stores and health food stores. She eats mainly organic fruits and/or organic vegetables and spends on average $100 in organic groceries. The typical OF consumer trusts most of the points of sale but uses mainly supermarkets, organic food stores, and local markets. Nutritional value, freshness, healthiness, and taste are the major factor for buying organic food product. Overall these consumers are happy with their organic consumption experience. Lastly, monthly spending, satisfaction, gender, and age are good predictors of who the typical OF consumer is.

All in all, OF consumers are niche consumers who have purchasing preferences as well as specific trust orientations. It is obvious from the findings that motivations are pre-determined by trust. Uncertainty is still an important factor as it relates to organic labeling and certification.


In conclusion, the body of knowledge surrounding OF consumer behavior has focused up to now on determining consumers' knowledge, attitudes, perceptions, and motivations, the certification process, and trust issues. However, not many studies have been conducted to explore consumers' trust orientations and their link with the use of the various OF distribution channels. Our study tackles the issue of relating consumers' trust toward OF brands, labeling and points of sales to their motivations. The findings show that not only trust orientations are positively related to motivations but also that trust differentiate between regular and non-regular consumers. Further, there is positive relationship between consumers' motivations, their trust orientations, and the choice of points of sale. Lastly, we profiled the typical OF consumer in terms of age, gender, satisfaction, choice of point of sale, and monthly spending.

One important limitation of this research is the sample size and the non-inclusion of more cities in the study. This would have helped in many ways. For instance having a representative sample of Canadian cites allows to generalize the results at the national level, not to mention the theoretical and practical implications for marketing practitioners and public policies. Deepening the understanding of OF consumers' motivations and trust orientations should be also done using multivariate techniques such as cluster analysis and discriminant analysis.

Finally, besides considering the trust orientations studied here, more attention should be paid to how important is the country of origin of the product to the consumer, and if there is some trust or lack of trust toward the organic product depending on its origin. This might lead to an additional trust orientation influencing consumer's decision process. Level of trust in terms of origin of the product also indirectly touches upon trust toward the organic label (and certification process) used in the countries products originate from. If consumers already show some low level of trust toward the local/national organic label, this might be even more pronounced for foreign organic labels. Furthermore, as knowledgeable OF consumers really pay attention to how really the products they buy are organic (no pesticides, no chemicals, but also no plastic wrapping, plane transportation, etc.), it might be interesting to look more into detail to the notion of "food mileage" and its relative importance for OF consumers, as well as its link with one of their motivation, "support local farmers". This notion might also affect all consumer's trust orientations, as well as their point of sale choice.


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(1) Market share of total retail food sales for organic food in Canada is in the 1% to 2% range, with estimated sales at $800 million Canadian dollars in 2002. The organic food industry is aiming to achieve 10% of the entire Canadian food retailing market by 2010, with forecasted retail sales of organics at $3.5 billion Canadian dollars. Since the mid-1990s, Canadian organic food retail sales in dollar value have been growing at a rate of 20% per annum (MacRae, 2002).

Leila Hamzaoui Essoussi, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Mehdi Zahaf, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay Ontario, Canada
Table 1: Chi-square tests
Variable 1            Variable 2                         significance

Age                   Type of consumers (RC or non-RC)     0.000 *
Gender                Type of consumers (RC or non-RC)     0.000 *
OF product category   Type of consumers (RC or non-RC)     0.000 *
Monthly spending      Type of consumers (RC or non-RC)     0.000 *
Satisfaction with     Type of consumers (RC or non-RC)     0.000 *
Monthly spending      Satisfaction with consumption        0.000 *

Table 2: Purchase Distribution for RC and non-RC per Food Category

Product Category   Non-RC    RC

Dairy               8.3%    41.9%
Fruit               27.%    59.7%
Bread              11.1%      46%
Meat                  7%    27.9%
Vegetables         28.3%    57.5%
Prepared food       8.6%    36.5%

Table 3: t-tests for Levels of Trust

Trust Dimensions    Consumers   Mean    t-test Significance

Brand and Store        RC       3.533          0.138
                     Non-RC     3.415
Uncertainty            RC       2.643          0.000 *
                     Non-RC     3.116
Prior Experiences      RC       3.280          0.219
                     Non-RC     3.195

* sig. at 5%

Table 4: t-tests for Most Used Points of Sale

                                    Channel              t-test
               Trust Dimensions      users     Mean    Significance

Direct         Prior Experiences     Users     3.102      0.014 *
Channel                            Non-users   3.314
               Uncertainty           Users     2.682      0.048 *
                                   Non-users   2.866
               Brand and Store       Users     3.590      0.081
                                   Non-users   3.446

Local Market   Prior Experiences     Users     3.270      0.522
                                   Non-users   3.218
               Uncertainty           Users     2.850      0.439
                                   Non-users   2.783
               Brand and Store       Users     3.462      0.381
                                   Non-users   3.532

Organic Food   Prior Experiences     Users     3.354      0.001 *
Stores                             Non-users   3.072
               Uncertainty           Users     2.707      0.001
                                   Non-users   2.987
               Brand and Store       Users     3.601      0.002 *
                                   Non-users   3.306

Supermarkets   Prior Experiences     Users     3.257      0.787
                                   Non-users   3.233
               Uncertainty           Users     2.804      0.843
                                   Non-users   2.822
               Brand and Store       Users     3.425      0.008 *
                                   Non-users   3.363

* sig. at 5%

Table 5: t-test for trusted Channels of Distribution

                                   Level of                t-test
               Trust Dimensions      trust      Mean    Significance

Organic        Prior Experiences   High trust   3.314      0.000 *
food                                Low Trust   3.012
stores         Uncertainty         High trust   2.755      0.003 *
                                    Low Trust   3.128
               Brand and Store     High trust   3.572      0.002 *
                                    Low Trust   3.207

Direct         Prior Experiences   High trust   3.321      0.074
channel                             Low Trust   3.171
               Uncertainty         High trust   2.780      0.540
                                    Low Trust   2.840
               Brand and Store     High trust   3.531      0.429
                                    Low Trust   3.457

Health         Prior Experiences   High trust   3.293      0.178
stores                              Low Trust   3.159
               Uncertainty         High trust   2.766      0.059
                                    Low Trust   2.974
               Brand and Store     High trust   3.531      0.224
                                    Low Trust   3.405

Supermarkets   Prior Experiences   High trust   3.338      0.101
                                    Low Trust   3.212
               Uncertainty         High trust   2.753      0.031 *
                                    Low Trust   2.945
               Brand and Store     High trust   3.505      0.989
                                    Low Trust   3.504

* sig. at 5%

Table 6: t-tests for Motivations

Motivations                       Mean   t-test significance

OF are healthier           RC     4.57          0.000 *
                         non-RC   4.14
OF are tastier             RC     4.14          0.000 *
                         non-RC   3.65
OF are environmentally     RC     4.58          0.000 *
  friendly               non-RC   4.08
OF are of superior         RC     3.91          0.072
  quality                non-RC   3.67
OF support local           RC     4.30          0.001 *
  farmers/economy        non-RC   3.86

* sig. at 5%

Figure 1: Consumption of Organic Food by
Product Category

Dairy           13.95%
Fruit           24.10%
Bread           15.89%
Meat             9.71%
Vegetables      23.83%
Prepared food   12.53%

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Figure 2: Preferred Points of Sale

Producer/Farmer      13.81%
Local market         27.19%
Organic food store   27.77%
Supermarket          31.22%

Note: Table made from bar graph.
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