1 Department of Marketing and Statistics, Aarhus School of Business, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University2 MAPP - Centre for Research on Customer Relations in the Food Sector, Aarhus School of Business, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University3 Marketing and Sustainability, Aarhus School of Business, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University4 Department of Management, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University5 Department of Management, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University
Organic food is produced in a way that reduces harm to the environment and respects the welfare of farm animals. Hence, buying organic food seems to be an act of ethical and environmentally responsible consumer behavior. However, it is often claimed that consumers really buy organic food for selfish reasons, i.e., because they believe organic food is healthier, taste better, or is of superior quality in other ways. This claim has been backed by survey data as well as qualitative interview data. However, I argue here that the claim is actually false and that the evidence backing it reflects post-rationalizations and self-presentation biases on behalf of respondents. I further argue that due to the many and varied ways people defend their self-concept, unobtrusive and indirect methods are the best way to uncover the goals and motives truly guiding this type of behavior. One such method is analyzing how the purchase of organic food relates to the individual consumer's value priorities, using a comprehensive measurement instrument for values. Following this line of reasoning, the objective of the empirical part of the paper is to answer the question whether buying organic food is related to selfish (self-enhancement) or unselfish (self-transcendence) values? A survey study is reported based on representative samples of 1,000 respondents from each of eight European countries. It is found that the purchase of organic food is more strongly and consistently related to self-transcendence values (i.e., Universalism) than to any other value domain, and that this relationship is significant and positive in seven of the eight analyzed countries and becomes significant in the last country when controlling for availability.