Natural Foods Merchandiser

What are your organic consumers paying for?

Shoppers' motivations are myriad when they're making purchasing decisions. But a recent survey performed by researchers at the University of California, Davis, gives new insight into why consumers choose organic produce and how much extra they are willing to pay for produce with certain labels.

The survey of Northern California shoppers divided the participants into two groups: regular organic shoppers, who purchase organic produce on a typical grocery-shopping trip, and nonregulars, who don't usually purchase organic produce. Participants were asked how much more they would pay for four different produce items—bananas, Fuji apples, broccoli and red leaf lettuce—if they were labeled three different ways: pesticide free, no GMOs and environmentally friendly.

Regular organic shoppers were willing to pay significantly more than nonregulars for produce with any of the three labels—between 13 percent and 39 percent more for the added value. The shoppers were willing to pay a higher premium for broccoli labeled with any of the attributes than for any of the other produce, and the environmentally friendly label attracted the highest premium in all four produce types.

Pesticide free was the only label that the nonregular organic shoppers were willing to pay a statistically significant premium for, perhaps because this is an attribute they expect tangible personal benefits from, researchers said. Researchers also pointed out that regular organic shoppers' willingness to pay the highest premium for environmentally friendly labels suggests that dedicated organic shoppers are more concerned with a contribution to society as a whole than just personal benefits.

The no GMO label drew the lowest price premiums and the largest number of survey respondents who deemed it an undesirable attribute. However, about 60 percent of nonregulars and 70 percent of regulars were willing to pay some positive amount for the no GMO attribute, so it seems a majority of consumers have some degree of concern about genetic modification.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVII/number 12/p. 1

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