In Recent decades, organic agriculture has been the central attention of every part of the society such as the government, marketers, consumers and this phenomenon is happening in the majority countries of the globe. Many people have perceived the benefits it could provide for both production front and marketing front (Chang & Griffith., 2003). Organic agriculture offers solutions to some problems that the environment may have faced which have been related to industrial agriculture, a farming system which comprises the exploitation of synthetic chemicals, pesticides and other inputs in order to maximize the yield of a specific or set of crops, resulted in a genetically modified products (Chang & Griffith, 2003; Lampkin, 1990). According to a study by Stony Brook University (N/A), conventional farming involves not only a great amount of chemical but also energy input hence leading to deteriorating the landscape’s ecosystem. Taking this problem into consideration, the government has started to play an active role in encouraging organic agriculture and some significant change was apparent in production in several countries, especially in Europe (Yi & Lin, 2014). On the other hand, from the marketing perspective, the demand for organic products has seen an increase due to different reasons with some already discussed above: for example, the increasing awareness for environmental concerns and impact linked to the conventional farming practices will be reduced on health and food safety (Coleman, 2018).
As suggested by Willer & Yussef (2004), Australia has the biggest areas of organic with 12.1 million hectares, following with China of 3.5 million hectares and Argentina with 2.8 million hectares, however, the highest percentage is in Europe. To sum up in percentages the world’s organic land, Oceania accounts for 39%, Europe with 21% and Latin America 20%. Additionally, results from FiBL survey (2017) showed that within the European countries the largest markets for organic products are Germany (8.6 billion Euro), the following is France (5.5 billion Euros), the UK (2.6 billion Euros), Italy (2.3 billion Euros) and Switzerland (2.1 billion Euros). A few terms have been used such as bio, eco and organic to refer to organics involving a farm management and production that is a sustainable agriculture to protect the environment, human, animals, health and welfare. However, it is important to note that organic food cannot be confused with food sold as natural (GreenFacts,2018). A study by Hartman Group (2009), found that consumers who buy organic food can be divided into three groups: firstly, periphery consumers accounting for 21% of organic consumers and these people are just starting to purchase organics but this group does not make any important behavioral changes; secondly, the mid-level organic consumers making up of 66% and they are changing both their attitudes and habits while buying organic products; the final group is only 13% with consumers who are truly invested in organics through their attitude and behaviour and they often talk and purchase these type of products. Organic customers have different values and beliefs compared to those of non-organic consumers and Kim (2014) said that the personal health values (food safety) motivate shoppers in purchasing organic products in order to prevent processed and artificial elements.
The author further added that non-organic consumers are more indifferent and sceptical about values and beliefs: 23% of applicants do not believe that organic products are better; 23% of people say they have not much information about organics and 19% indicate they do not care about organics. Several studies have examined the role of the theory of planned behaviour (TPB) regarding people’s intention to consume organics: including attitudes, subjective norms and perceived behavioural control (Donahue, 2017; Dean et al., 2012). The theory is the most commonly used for consumer behaviour linking an individual’s belief and behavior while stating that these constructs altogether shape someone’s intentions and behaviours in purchasing. The aim of this dissertation is to investigate how British consumers are motivated to purchase organic food by applying the Means-End Chain (MEC) theory. MEC suggests that consumers will think about the characteristics of the goods or attribute in terms of personal consequences and give a possible link between their needs, product characteristics to consequences and values (Zanoli & Naspetti, 2002). MEC theory consists of product attributes which are associated with consequences (benefits and/or risks) and to personal values and these three categories will drive consumer’s choice. MEC will be applied through a ladder interview: a qualitative method that encourage participants to verbally describe their responses (Woodall, 2013). The results from the interviews will be expressed on a hierarchical value maps (HVMs), an association networks of attributes, consequences and values. By understanding the hierarchical map of organic consumers consumption, it may help marketers and manager develop processes for ameliorating organic market in the UK and have a better understanding of their organic consumers.
Five sections are presented in order to guide readers through this dissertation. The first part consists of the introduction by providing a global background on the organic system with definitions about organic food and organic consumers, research objective and structure. The second part involves the literature review by starting with a detailed presentation about the UK organic market. Following up is a clear explanation and analysis of the mean end chain theory with previous researches according to consumers’ perceptions and motivations. The third section is the methodology: this work will be carried out with a qualitative method known as ladder interviews where questions will be designed specifically to discover the link between attributes, consequences and value of an individual. Findings/results and analysis/discussion will be the essentials of the fourth section. Finally, the last part will be dedicated to a discussion, review research questions and results derived from the in-depth interview and as well as outlining the limitations and what else can be done to improve or for future research.