Institute of Food Economics and Consumption Studies

Trust as a Determinant of Consumer Behaviour for Organic Food Consumers in Germany

Organic farming follows an organisational principle by reaching a closed nutrition cycle with a focus on food quality and safety in the long-term, nature conservation and sustainability. Organic agriculture is an efficient and holistic approach that reaches the multiple goals of agriculture by promoting soil conservation (e.g. soil fertility), prevention of water pollution (e.g. lack of nutrients in ground- and surface waters), protection of species (e.g. biodiversity), and –species-appropriate animal husbandry (e.g. adequate run-out). The exclusion of genetically modified organisms is a necessity.

Consumer trust analysis from different point-of-sale sources indicated that organic butchers (49 %), organic food shops (46 %), and organic bakers (45 %) were the most trustworthy suppliers for organic foods that met compliance standards from the consumers’ point of view, while discounters were the least trusted (8 %). Hence, the transaction volume of discounters declined about 6 %, while organic and health food markets increased 5.2 % in the first half of 2009. Due to this development, this study will investigate reasons and problems associated with purchase decisions for organic food consumers. 

Most studies from previous research explored subjective perceptions of quality attributes, consumer uncertainty and consumer risk perceptions and/ or quality information gaps between producers and consumers. However, these studies were not focused on specific organic food product markets in Germany. Hence, this study will conduct surveys in Germany using a stated choice experiment that examines the trust impact on organic product purchase decisions (organic milk, organic fruits and vegetables, organic meat). Next to the element of trust, other factors that influence organic product purchase decisions are exogenous factors such as regulations, certifications, labelling, information, awareness and knowledge. Knowledge about credence goods as organic foods is limited; therefore, the consumer decision at purchase is a decision under uncertainty. Consumer awareness and knowledge about organic foods next to the psychometric (cognitive, normative, affective) factors, socio-demographic and socio-economic variables (e.g. age, sex, income, education and the number of children per household) have an effect on consumer attitude and perception. 

Results of this study will provide agri-food companies, the public sector, and researchers opportunities to develop new risk communication strategies for the long-term perspective that encompasses consumer trust as a contributing factor.


Beginn: 15.08.2009
Projektleitung: Prof. Dr. Awudu Abdulai
Bearbeitung: Rebecca Illichmann, MSc.