Major consumer trends like health and organic foods figure prominently on the agenda of food businesses and regulatory decision-makers. However, it is not clear from previous research whether rising market shares reflect changes in consumer attitudes, changes in the supply structure, or changes in the pricing of foods. Five scales from the Food-related Lifestyle instrument (FRL) were used in replication surveys in Germany in 1993 and 1996 (N1 = 1000, N2 = 1042), France in 1994 and 1998 (N1 = 1000, N2 = 1000), and the UK in 1994 and 1998 (N1 = 1000, N2 = 1000), measuring the importance of health, price/quality relation, novelty, organic products, and freshness to consumers' food choices. Trends in the importance of these quality aspects were modeled using multi-sample confirmatory factor analysis with structured means. Results indicate that, contrary to widespread expectations, the importance of healthy/unprocessed foods, organic foods, and fresh foods has been declining in all three countries since the early 1990s. The pattern suggests that the actual consumer trend to organic foods already peaked several years ago, and that the current boom is likely to be a mere short-term consequence of changes in pricing and distribution.
Advances in Consumer Research, 2001, Vol 5, p. 5-10