Influence of health consciousness and food safety concerns on consumer attitudes towards organic food

Evidence from German and United Kingdom Generation Y

Master's Thesis, 2015

103 Pages


Table of contents

Executive Summary


List of tables

List of figures

1.1 Chapter Introduction
1.2 Background of organic produce
1.3 Purpose and objectives
1.4 Research questions
1.5 Structure of the dissertation

2.1 Chapter Introduction
2.2 Organic food
2.2.1 Organic food in Germany
2.2.2 Organic food in the United Kingdom
2.3 Generation Y
2.4 Health consciousness
2.5 Food safety
2.6 Overview of present secondary literature
2.7 The Theory of Planned Behaviour
2.8 Research hypotheses relationships
2.9 Chapter Summary

3.1 Chapter Introduction
3.2 Practical and ethical issues
3.3 Type of research
3.4 Research design
3.5 Structure of the questionnaire and data collection
3.6 Data measurements
3.7 Chapter Summary

4.1 Chapter Introduction
4.2 Sample description
4.3 Differences between Germany and the United Kingdom
4.3.1 Health consciousness
4.3.2 Food safety
4.4 Chapter Summary

5.1 Chapter Introduction
5.2 Limitations
5.3 Conclusion
5.4 Further recommendations and outlook


Appendix : English questionnaire
Appendix : German questionnaire

Executive Summary

This dissertation analyses the specific role of the two factors health consciousness and food safety on consumer attitudes and their purchase intentions in relation to organic food. The investigation will deliver evidence from the Generation Y from two of the major countries consuming organic products: Germany and United Kingdom. Until now there have not been sufficient studies about organic foods in relation to health consciousness and food safety, so the aim of this study is to fill this gap. The purpose of the study is to demonstrate how health consciousness and food safety affects consumer attitudes and purchase intentions towards organic products. This will be done through a review of previous secondary literature as well as a questionnaire distributed online via e-mail and Facebook. The total number of respondents was 203. Researchers suggested several new approaches on how to deliver a more precise outcome on organic consumption. These recommendations were taken into consideration and a new methodology was developed.

An online questionnaire was distributed in order to answer the hypotheses and find out what drives theMillenialsto buy organic, as they seem to have different consumption patterns than previous generations. To observe the desired results, theTheory of Planned Behaviourby Icek Ajzen (1985) was extended with self-identity concepts and moral norms, items that were found by previous researchers to have a significant influence on intentions to purchase organic foods (Aertsens et al., 2009; Arvola et al., 2008; Dean & Shepherd, 2012; Hagger & Chatzisarantis, 2006; Sparks & Shepherd, 199 The results support the assumption, that Germans prefer organic produce over the British participants. In the UK, there is a gap between the non-consumers and the consumers of organic foods. As previous studies stated, they question organic regulation standards and production methods more than the Germans, who mostly trust in their organic production chain (Gerrard et al., 2013; Zander, 2014). Moreover, both parties believe in health supporting attributes of this style of farming, which can be named as a reason for the steady growth of organic demand. Although, it has to be said that these findings cannot be generalised as the number of participants was under 300, which is not representative.

Keywords:Organic, health consciousness, food safety, consumption, Germany, United Kingdom, Generation Y, consumer attitudes, intention, Theory of Planned Behaviour


My special thanks are due to my supervisor, Dr. Constantinos-Vasilios Priporas, for the helpful advice and constant encouragement during the writing of this dissertation. My thanks are also due to the staff of the Middlesex University, who has helped me in all stages of the process. Particular thanks must go to all the lovely participants who completed my questionnaire, gave valuable recommendations and feedback and helped me getting well-grounded results.

List of tables

Table 1: Overview over present secondary literature

Table 2: Overview over the hypotheses and their outcome (n=96)

List of figures

Figure 1: Sales volume of ecological foods 2013 in Europe

Figure 2: EU-Bio-Siegel

Figure 3: Deutsches Biosiegel

Figure 4: Bioland

Figure 5: demeter

Figure 6: Naturland.

Figure 7: Soil Association..

Figure 8: Organic Farmers & Growers

Figure 9: Organic Food Federation

Figure 10: The Theory of Planned Behaviour by Ajzen

Figure 11: Conceptual model adapted by the Theory of Planned Behaviour

Figure 12: Distribution of the age of the German respondents (n=101)

Figure 13: Distribution of the age of the British respondents (n=102)


1.1 Chapter Introduction

Today´s world is determined by many factors: technology, progress, finance and politics to only mention a few. Although medicine has developed rapidly, scientists forecast negative outcomes for the incoming generations. If younger generations continue to live like previous generations use to, then this will be the first time that children might not survive their parents (Mecking, 2014).

In the developed western world, illnesses like cancer, diabetes, blood pressure, allergies and heart failure have become well-established diseases although medical progress has never been faster. But where do they come from? Society has never consumed this many chemical and processed foods like they do today. These processed foods mainly consist of sugar, carbohydrates, fat and salt, which have now become empty calories which don´t nourish the body. Then big food companies like Nestlé, Mondelez International and Danone add vitamins and minerals to these products to sell them as healthy, but it has never been proven that the added supplements can replace real vitamins contained naturally in fruit and vegetables (De Jonge et al., 2015). In addition, giants corporations like Monsanto sow a limited range of hybrid seeds listed at the global seeds catalogue, using intellectual property laws, and thereby control the world´s seed supply. Besides preventing bio-diversity, plants get treated with a toxic cocktail of fertilisers and growth hormones to speedup the process of producing foods for the ever- growing society (Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft & Ernährung, 2012). Eventually, harvested by big farm tractors, these chemical-loaded plants start their journey through processes that converts a wholesome plant into a nutrient-poorcarrierof artificial components. Nutrition has become part of a money-driven world where society is the marionette of the global players. They seem to have forgotten that the wordnutrition derives fromnutrient, which is the essential oil for the engine, namely the body (Wier & Calverley, 2002).

1.2 Background of organic produce

Food is a physiological need that everyone needs to fulfil every day of life. The attitude towards food in general is influenced by many external factors, such as friends, family, traditions, and habits and culture. The world has rapidly changed more than ever before, but humans still have to depend on food to live. With the growing populations of earth and the rapid increase in technology, food production and access to food has changed.

For example, the goal in the industrial revolution was to feed the population and pesticides and fertilisers were used on a grand scale to keep up with the growing demand. However, this meant that vegetables like the tomato, for instance lost their sugary component, as they had to be harvested while still green. This led to the advent of flavour enhancement and this tomato was not filled with vitamins and nutrients anymore, but with chemical additives. In addition, with the rapid increase in the pace of life, cooking has become a lavish procedure for a lot of people, which led to the inevitable rise of fast food and convenience outlets, which are now available at every corner of the world (Wier & Calverley, 2002). This is important to the researcher, because now the Generation Y seems to change their views on food. Some even say food is thenew religionand it has become an essential component of a healthy lifestyle. This generation did so far not experience any shortages or wars, so they try to solve other major concerns of which one is food as illnesses and food borne diseases spread in an even shorter interval.

However, the repeating food scandals such as the mad cow disease (BSE) for example, from the 1990’s, has had a huge impact on the image of food safety as they see how the treatment of the world’s foods has changed over the years (De Jonge et al., 2015; Fontes et al., 2013; Illichmann & Abdulai, 2014; Michaelidou & Hassan, 2008). The mysterious preservative methods and food additives have left their mark within the consumers’ minds (De Jonge et al., 2015). It is important to note that there are strong regulations concerning the growing and preservation processes, but only few studies have investigated the relationship between food safety and the consumer in depth.

Yet, some individuals do not care about what they eat; their main objective is to fulfil the upcoming need. Others make careful choices about what to put into their bodies, as they want to nourish it. As a result, an ever-growing number of consumers have shifted back to original forms of nutrition: Organic products produced without preservatives, colours, acids, sweeteners and other controversial ingredients. Furthermore, through these repeating scandals, health consciousness has also grown, especially because the media demonstrates every day, what could happen if one keeps on eating fast, cheap and low quality food (McCarthy et al., 2013). This is why it is even more important to take a closer look at this development and to explain the reasons behind it to gain additional insight usable for all parties. Which raises the question, why are there still so many people buying conventional foods? And why was there a need for whole foods stores additionally to normal supermarkets? Clearly, further research is required to understand the role of behaviour determining consumer confidence in food safety. 11

Since the Mac Sharry reform of common agricultural policy (CAP) in 1992, there can be seen a steady growth in organic farming, especially in Germany, the stronghold of organic agriculture in Europe with a growth of 4,8 per cent in 2014 compared to 2013 (Bundesministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft, 2015). Compared to that, the United Kingdom has a far less total turnover, but organic food also steadily rose by the high percentage of 4 in 2014. However, it is noticeable that the UK market is growing much faster than the German market (Baker et al., 2004; Soil Association, 2015). But still, there are many differences, even in Europe. After the United States of America, Germany with 7 billion euros and the United Kingdom with 1,9 billion euros belong to the top five countries with the largest markets for organic foods (IFOAM, 2013).

Despite this, there is only limited availability of specific products in a retail store, the variety reaches its limits, especially when it comes to organic products (Gilson, 2013). This is not surprising when you consider that in total under two per cent of agricultural area is designated to organic farms (Bundesministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft, 2015). Against all the odds, organic development has influenced conventional production in an even stronger way than ever expected. As a result, this topic has received attention by academic researchers, as a new type of consumer seems to have been born, who has not only changed their way of thinking towards the product in general, but also towards their own attitudes and behaviour in buying groceries (Michaelidou & Hassan, 2008).

1.3 Purpose and objectives

Despite organic products seemingly widely available throughout Germany and the UK, there has not been sufficient organic market data collection to come to a comprehensive conclusion about this sector (Feldmann & Hamm, 2014). Research will be focussed on German and UK Generation Y consumers, because until now only limited studies focused on the Generation Y in these countries with respect to organic food buying.

Due to the limitations of this study, it was not possible to include all the geographical regions of Germany and the UK as the questionnaire was only distributed online, either to friends via e-mail and Facebook, or to fellow students from university. People in Germany are very traditional oriented, so there is still a big connection between nature and humans. Generally, it can be assumed that the participation rate will be quite high due to the fact that Germany is the country with the highest organic consumption in Europe. In the UK, mainly London inhabitants were the main participants because the city has the highest and most diverse population rate in the European Union (, 2013).

Since, the process of buying seems to differ between the two chosen countries, this study attempts to ascertain the influence of consumer attitudes and buying behaviour on organic foods. Specifically, the purpose of this study is to demonstrate how health consciousness and food safety affects consumer attitudes and purchase intentions towards organic food. This study wants to fill the research gap and focus more on specific consumer behaviour of organic products in relation to health consciousness and food safety (Newsom et al., 2005).

1.4 Research questions

The research questions for this paper want to further investigate the role of health consciousness and food safety on consumer attitudes and purchase intentions towards organic food. This will be demonstrated by comparing the Generation Y in Germany and the UK. It will deliver best possible answers from the view of consumers, who frequently buy organic products. The following questions will help to formulate an overall picture currently of the role of the two indications on consumer behaviour towards organic food:

- Does health consciousness influence consumer attitudes towards organic food?
- Does food security influence consumer attitudes towards organic food?
- Does health consciousness influence purchase intentions of organic food?
- Does food security influence purchase intentions of organic food?
- Are there differences in the consumer attitudes and purchase intentions of organic food between the German and the British Generation Y?

This study’s wider aim is also to contribute and therefore increase the body of knowledge that is accumulating in this sector in order to gain knowledge about mechanisms, which shape consumers’ decisions in correlation with their socio- economic status.

1.5 Structure of the dissertation

Chapter one describes the purpose and the objectives as well as the research problem of the study. The following chapter is a literature review, which starts with a general overview over organic foods and furthermore focuses on the markets in Germany and the UK. Afterwards other aspects important to answer the research questions are investigated, such as the Generation Y, health consciousness, and food safety. The Theory of Planned Behaviour will serve as a basis on which this study is built upon. Based on this different research hypotheses will be developed. This chapter will end with an overview over present secondary literature that was found to be essential for this study. Chapter three presents the results on methodological approaches, which were used in this study to develop academic outcome, that can be used for further research on this field.

The following phase consists of the results of the questionnaires were analysed against research findings from the literature review in order to capture the different dimensions that impact the organic food market. To conclude the research process will be scrutinised with its outcomes and limitations, which resume in an outlook for further research.


2.1 Chapter Introduction

This chapter wants to further investigate the methods and findings that have been explored on health consciousness, food safety, and the Theory of Planned Behaviour so far. Interestingly, previous research was mainly conducted through surveys (Kim et al., 2014). Only few academic researchers used questionnaires as a method to get consumer data (Sparks & Shepherd, 1992). Furthermore, personal determinants of organic food consumption have been used rarely. Organic consumption is still not at the same level with conventional foods, which means that there is still a lot to do from a marketing perspective (Baker et al., 2004).

Today every individual wants to express him-/herself in a positive way towards his/her social environment. Consumers of organic products have decided for themselves to be healthy wellbeing persons, who are supporting the environment to maintain its beauty. To some, it is not only a day-to-day routine but also a nourishing treatment to become a healthy self. Today buying groceries is not only fulfilling needs, it is a lifestyle choice. Especially organic products have made a big development from a small niche for conscious, naturally living people to a section for premium, educated, happy and healthy living people, which is particularly true for British consumers (Goetzke & Spiller, 2014).

2.2 Organic food

It seems like in most of the western countries, organic produce is available everywhere. But research shows, that “organic market growth and data collection within the organic food sector have developed differently throughout Europe” (Feldmann & Hamm, 2014, p.369). For example, Germany has the highest turnover with 7.550 million Euros. In contrast, the UK´s turnover in ecological produce comes to an amount of 2.065 million Euros, (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Sales volume of ecological foods 2013 in Europe

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Although Germany has the greatest turnover on ecological produce, the amount per inhabitant (94 Euros) is, compared to other countries like Swiss (206 Euros), Denmark (163 Euros) and Austria (126 Euros), relatively low. And yet, ecological production processes have not spread around all European countries.

As organic production grew, various definitions of organic production methods developed. To explain corresponding terms in more detail, the Codex Alimentarius (1999/2001) states, that organic agriculture is a holistic production management system which promotes and enhances agro-ecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. It emphasizes the use of management practices in preference to the use of off-farm input, taking into account that regional conditions require locally adapted systems. This is accomplished by using, where possible, agronomic, biological and mechanical methods, as opposed to using synthetic materials, to fulfil any specific function within the system.

Generally speaking, consumers understand the wordorganic, but most of the time, they wish to know more about their production and other processes that the desired products run through before the final sale. A global umbrella group for organic farming goods, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), sets out the regulation standards. Organic produce is determined by its production process, the seeds the farmers buy and what technology they use during the whole food production method (IFOAM, 2013). Interestingly, the agricultural agency IFOAM originally defined organic farming as (IFOAM, 2013):

Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved.

In many countries, there are also national regulations, but they are all based on these principles. The EU-Eco-Regulation No. 2092/1991, No. 1804/1999, No. 1294/2005 and EC No. 834/2007 in Europe define the criterions under which foods are allowed to be namedorganic(Council of the European Union, 2007). In general, it can be said that consumers judge organic characteristics more positively. Since they see them as healthier, better tasting and more nourishing than conventional foods, so it is of interest to investigate the relationship between the key factors health consciousness and food safety and the attitudes of the consumers towards organic products (Arvola et al., 2008; Mondelaers & Van Huylenbroeck, 2009; Zanoli & Naspetti, 2002). As such, qualitative studies have found that purchases are motivated by positive consequences for the self as well as for others (Arvola et al., 2008). Therefore, all conscious and subconscious processes concerning behaviour are a vital criterion, which need to be examined in more depth in order to understand consumer´s buying behaviour (Janssen & Hamm, 2012). As a result, studies of consumer behaviour focus on the types of preferences consumers have and how they are developed in the minds of consumers. Out of this research two broad distinctions have emerged in terms of distinguishing consumer behaviour; cognitive and behavioural motivation to consumer behaviour. Applied to organic products, this means that factors such as motivation, product knowledge, and involvement are key to making decisions (Zanoli & Naspetti, 2002).

In contrast, previous studies, for example the one from Buder, Feldmann and Hamm (2014) assumed, that organic purchase were similar to conventional purchases. It seems that, especially in Germany, retail stores still have not successfully managed to reach these demanding customers whereas it should be vital for today´s retail stores to understand this growing audience in order to satisfy their needs and wants and gain market share.

The upcoming chapter will describe the organic market in the two main countries of this study: Germany and the UK.

2.2.1 Organic food in Germany

In Germany, organic agriculture has a long tradition. It started in 1924, but the real growth started 60 years later with becoming the second largest area of certified organic land after Italy. Between 2001 and 2011, 659 research- and development projects were extensively boosted with the total sum of 74,8 million Euros, implemented by 140 supporting recipients. This dimension, compared internationally, is immense, but since 1989 organic agriculture is supported by governmental budget, which led to deep environmental and nutritional knowledge among the German inhabitants nowadays. This is because a high number of publications in practical oriented and examining magazines were developed out of this research. Which led to a comprehensive compendium of easy accessible and actual research results, even for consumers (Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft & Ernährung, 2012). Despite this, currently it can be argued that public consumerism- and behaviour research has been presented poorly (Bioökonomierat, 2014).

In 2001, the nationalBio-Siegel(=organic logo) was brought into being for products and groceries, which were produced and controlled under EU-legislation for organic farming. For the public notice of this sign, 57.000 Euros were applied 2001, compared to 7,7 million Euros 2002 (Bundesanstalt für Landwirtschaft & Ernährung, 2012). Looking at the different counties in Germany, Bavaria with 214.813 hectare has had the biggest ecological farmed agriculture in Germany in 2013 (Bundesministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft, 2015). Especially here, the desire for natural groceries produced under traditional methods is very high but reality on the ground shows vague knowledge about food production processes and techniques. Even the wordnaturalis not protected by the government, so companies can use it wherever they like to promote their products (Bioökonomierat, 2014).

As several studies have shown, most German consumers are confused by the high occurrence of organic food labels. The following labels are the most common and biggest farmer´s associations in Germany (, 2014):

Figure 2: EU-Bio- Siegel

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 3: Deutsches Biosiegel

illustration not visible in this excerpt

This European logoEU-Bio Siegelappeared on the market on 1st July 2010 to overcome the general confusion of labels as well as to have an obligatory label for packaged foods in the EU. With this sign only 47 different kinds of additives such as flavourings or preservatives are allowed.

Being one of the oldest labels (invented in 2001), theDeutsche Biosiegelcan be found on 63.300 products. Its standards claim that 95 per cent of the ingredients have to be organic. This label, in contrast to theEU-Bio-Siegel,is obligatory. It is often labelled besides theEU-Bio-Siegelto ensure a higher value of allocation.

The following labels are from specific farmer´s associations, who have built up an imperium to protect the aware consumer. They comply with the general regulations but also require compliance with several stricter sets of standards additionally (, 2014):

Figure 4: Bioland

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 5: demeter

illustration not visible in this excerpt

With around 5.440 companies,Biolandis the biggest association in Germany. The concept is based on organic-biologic farming from the 1940’s. The logo itself exists since 1976 and prohibits parallel conventional farming, also if both farming types are separated.

The label demeter focuses on organic-dynamic agriculture, a concept from the anthroposophy movement member Rudolf Steiner. Right now it has more than 1.400 companies and exists on the market since 1928.

Figure 6: Naturland

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Naturlandis an organic label with high international standards in processing: Their criteria go beyond theEU-Öko Verordnung(EU- organic regulation) since 1982. Nowadays, there are more than 53.000 farmers participating. Detailed regulations join the products from crop till trade.

According to the Agrarmarkt Informations-Gesellschaft mbH (2015), growth in the German organic food market was due to successful marketing strategies in specialised organic food stores, while demand in conventional supermarket chains remained stable. However, the most important factors for consumers to purchase organic food are distrust in conventional food, health and among younger people, environmental issues (Baker et al., 2004; Kristen, 2012). Like in Denmark, there is a high availability of organic produce in supermarkets, even at discounters who mostly have their own organic brands such asBioBio(Lidl),ReweBio(Rewe) andNaturkind(Tengelmann), compared to mostly non-organic products at discounters in the UK (Wier & Calverley, 2002).

Culturally seen, there are different motives why German and UK consumers decide to buy organic (Baker et al., 2004). Many UK inhabitants feel confused because of different opinions from professionals about healthy eating which have been discussed broadly (Gerrard et al., 2013). The next section will review the organic market in the United Kingdom as well as differences compared to Germany.


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Influence of health consciousness and food safety concerns on consumer attitudes towards organic food
Evidence from German and United Kingdom Generation Y
( Middlesex University in London )
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ISBN (Book)
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Organic, health consciousness, food safety, consumption, Germany, United Kingdom, Generation Y, consumer attitudes, intention, Theory of Planned Behaviour
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Pia Weiler (Author), 2015, Influence of health consciousness and food safety concerns on consumer attitudes towards organic food, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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