Four issues were investigated in this thesis. First, the factors which motivate organic food buying behaviour^; secondly, the reasons which cause people to avoid organics; thirdly, the cost and availability of organics in different retail outlets, and finally the opinions of retailers as to the current and future state of the organic food market. In addition, the proportion of organic buyers to non-buyers which existed among the public was estimated.
Primary research was employed to survey three types of respondent. First, a national postal survey of supermarkets, wholefood shops, farm shops and greengrocers that stocked organic food was undertaken. To obtain more detailed information on the public’s attitude towards organic produce, a telephone survey of the Edinburgh and Lothian population was conducted. Finally, the particular preferences of organic food buyers were recorded by personal interviews of customers in wholefood shops around Edinburgh. Non-parametric tests, in particular chi- squared tests, were used to measure the differences between the responses of organic retailers and those between organic buyers and non-buyers.
Results showed that the proportion of organic food buyers among the public in 1992 (29%) was no greater than those found by studies undertaken in 1987 and 1988. Concern for health was perceived most commonly to be the most important buying motivation for organic food by retailers, buyers and non-buyers alike, while expense was the most commonly cited non-buying reason among respondents. In general, supermarkets were found to incur greater cost when purchasing organic foods and they suffered significantly higher levels of wastage compared with wholefood shops. Yet supermarkets did enjoy a more extensive and consistent range of fresh organic produce in comparison with smaller retailers. Most retailers were optimistic about the future of the organic market and believed the high price of organic food to be the single most important barrier to market expansion.
It appears that many organic purchases, ostensibly altruistic in motivation, are in fact motivated by fear or by fashion. The major non-buying reasons given by respondents fall into two types: lack of knowledge and lack of value. To encourage organic food purchases and to combat non-buying reasons, retailers must create awareness and knowledge about organics, and achieve lower prices. However, long-term expansion of the market may only be assured by legislation which is more favourable towards organic growers.