Consumers´ mode of categorising organic products and the social situation of households: the case of Denmark
Institute of Governmental Research AKF Copenhagen, Denmark
The research project is part of the DARCOF II Programme, Consumer Demand for Organic Foods - Domestic and Foreign Market Perspectives. The overall objective of this project is to explain the demand for organic food products at the household level, focusing on the extent changes in the level of demand for organic food products can be accounted for by changes in the social situation of households, changes in ways of conceiving organic products, and the influence of new information.
This paper will focus specifically on the case of Denmark where the trend within the last 10-15 years has been that still more Danish consumers have become incidental buyers of organic foods resulting in a comparatively very high proportion of "organic consumers" seen in relation to other European countries. What role has consumers´ mode of categorizing organic food products played in this development and to what extent does the social situation of households bear any significance? Consumers can be motivated by a number of concerns, including a concern with themselves (an ?egoistic? value orientation) or a concern with wider societal issues (an "altruistic" value orientation), and the study will analyze which kind of reasoning exerts most influence on purchasing behavior in different social groups.
The paper is designed with a view to developing links between the theory of categorisation as developed in cognitive sociology with behavioral frameworks. Especially the concept of "risk perception" will be developed through the paper with the aim of describing the "mental models" of how different consumers reach their assessments of risks. It will be argued that the "cognitive deficit" approach is insufficient in order to understand consumers´ conception of food risks and consumer behavior and a contextualized approach, including sociological input, will be discussed.
At an empirical level, the research project employs a qualitative method of sociological investigation. A screening questionnaire administered by telephone interview has been developed and employed for the purpose of recruiting a relevant group of respondents who have subsequently participated in a personal interview. In total 15 interviews form the basis of the analysis.