Food Industry Lacks Understanding of Organic Consumers

Monday, March 3, 2008

A food marketing researcher from Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia is learning more about consumer attitudes toward organic foods and exploring their influence on U.S. Markets.

The stereotypes associated with organic consumers used to signify something very different than they do today. Stores like Whole Foods have welcomed designer shoes to their traditional Birkenstock foot traffic as consumers have been incorporating organic foods into their purchasing habits. On the other end of the spectrum, however, many consumers have shrugged off the trend as hippie capitalism and don't see any benefit in buying organic.

Julie Stanton, Ph.D., has identified six meaningful consumer segments and compared the attitudes and beliefs they hold. Stanton says that each of these segments has a distinct set of motivations that shape their attitudes toward organic foods:

1. Health Enthusiasts 2. Organic Idealists 3. Unengaged Shoppers 4. Hogwashers 5. Bargain Shoppers 6. Cynical/Distrustfuls

By understanding more about these consumer profiles, Stanton says retailers can anticipate growth segments and develop marketing and merchandising strategies to suit them. She believes the industry relies too heavily on buzz-words in marketing organic products and that little has been understood about consumer attitudes – until now.

"Consumers are hearing the health message about organic, but they're not hearing that it means something distinct. The organic industry hasn't sold itself very well," she says. "If they want to make in roads, the industry needs to recognize who their consumers are, target them and offer convincing evidence to support their claims."

Stanton's research on this topic is pending publication. She can be reached for comment at or 610-660-1624, or by calling the Office of University Communications at 610-660-1222.

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