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School of Business | Department of Marketing | Marketing | 2013
Thesis number: 13181
Organic food consumption from consumers' perspective - A consumer narrative approach
Author: Ryynälä, Anu
Title: Organic food consumption from consumers' perspective - A consumer narrative approach
Year: 2013  Language: eng
Department: Department of Marketing
Academic subject: Marketing
Index terms: markkinointi; marketing; kulutus; consumption; kuluttajat; consumers; kuluttajakäyttäytyminen; consumer behaviour; ruoka; food; elintarvikkeet; food stuffs; tarina; narrative
Pages: 86
Key terms: organic food; consumer meanings; consumer narratives
Organic food consumption is a current topic both in research and in food industry today. Prior research has focused on studying the characteristics of organic food consumers and the determinants of consumption. The market is growing and highly promising so a deeper understanding of the consumer experience is needed. The focus of this study is to gain this deeper understanding by interviewing eight respondents in the intention to further understand their consumption meanings.

Organic food consumption has been linked to several consumer characteristics such as human, animal and environment centered values, personal and social norms, emotions, attitudes, intentions and so forth. Macro factors such as laws and regulations, local market, and supply and demand issues also impact the volume of organic food consumption. Some studies have found linkages between cultural dimensions and organic food consumption as well, and product related features like price, quality and availability also play their part. Ethical consumption is closely related to organic consumption as well, since both consider aspects of health, environment and animal welfare. Additionally, certain demographic factors have found to be related to the increased likelihood to purchase organic food such as sex, disposable income, education, household consistency, age and ethnicity. However, most of these findings are somewhat conflicting and different studies have found different results in regards to these determinants. Therefore, a certain level of caution is needed when generalizing these findings.

Instead of focusing on finding general guidelines, this study takes a look at consumption meanings of individual consumers related to organic food. By using Thompson's hermeneutical approach for interpreting consumer narratives, I was able to identify meanings related to six themes: health, ethics, consumer power, convenience, identity and quality. Different consumers assign different meanings to organic food as for some it is a way for getting a clear conscience, gaining social acceptance or aiming for balanced life. It can be a way to get some of the childhood flavors back or a way for living in balance with the nature and opposite the hectic lifestyle of today. These are just some examples derived from consumer narratives as each consumer has their own patterns of meanings.

However, organic food consumption also possesses various challenges related to time, convenience and credibility and each consumer may have different roles for organic food in their lives. My findings further support the assumption of consumer individuality and complexity of decision making. From a marketers' point of view, understanding these complex meanings can be crucial to gain consumer trust and to avoid detrimental mistakes. It is important to note that these findings apply to these consumers only and more research on this topic is needed.
Master's theses are stored at Learning Centre in Otaniemi.