This study demographically determines: which consumers are currently buying organic produce; consumer comparisons of organic and conventional produce; and consumer purchase likelihood of higher-priced organic produce. Data were collected from a Delaware consumer survey, dealing with fresh produce and food safety. Multinomial and ordered logit models were developed to generate marginal effects of age, gender, education, and income. Increasing age, males, and advancing education demonstrated positive effects on the likelihood that the consumer was not a regular purchaser of organic produce. Respondents with at least a Bachelor degree were more likely to have organic purchase experience among the non-regular purchasers. A majority of respondents rated organics to be superior overall to conventionally grown produce, with increasing age, males, advancing education, and high income having a negative effect on this probability. Most consumers felt that organic produce would cost at least somewhat more than conventional produce, where females and advancing education positively affected this outcome. Less than one out of every four respondents demonstrated a strong purchase likelihood of a higher-priced organic produce alternative. Young females with a high school degree or less and above average household income were the highest probability group to purchase costlier organic produce. A nationwide poll concluded that only 28.3 percent of consumers actually sought out organic or limited pesticide-use produce, even though over seventy percent responded that organic produce provides better long-term health effects than conventionally grown produce (Organic Gardening). Some retailers maintain that appearance and price are prohibitive factors in consumer adoption of organic produce (Mejia). These indicators suggest that consumer apathy towards healthfulness hinders consumers from searching out organic produce. However, an area study has shown that availability was consistently identified as a major explanation for not purchasing organics (Byrne). Perhaps consumers are not even aware that the organic alternative exists, or they are not willing to look for organics outside of supermarkets or roadside stands (Byrne). Ireland and Falk stated that "a majority of groceries do not handle organics because of low availability and perceived consumer demand." Their study found that food retailers, who do handle organics, were almost unanimous in stating that availability was not a problem. Ott and Maligaya found that the majority of consumers would reject organics, if organics were of a lesser quality than conventionally grown produce. Since organics have grown to be a billion dollar industry (Waterfield), one may assume genuine consumer demand. The studies discussed here do show a purchase likelihood restraint due to price and quality. The Delmarva study indicates that availability is also a deterrent, perhaps larger than price and quality (Byrne). The purpose of this study is to determine which consumers are and are not buying organic produce, and to analyze their characteristic relationships between organic and conventionally grown produce, as well as their purchase likelihoods. Additionally, the study analyzes the effects that consumer demographics have on these relationships.

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Journal Article
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Journal of Food Distribution Research, Volume 22, Number 2
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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2018-01-22

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