• Objectives / Research Questions
The public regulation of the European organic label, which introduces principles applicable to organic processing in general, has several weaknesses: one of them is that the compatibility between processing and organic principles has been assessed from the perspective of food science, with little consideration given to the consumers’ point of view. The present research aims to investigate consumer expectations concerning organic processing, which requires understanding their representations in a context of very imperfect information. How do consumers perceive processing in the case of organic products?
The analysis of thirty interviews provides keys to the conceptual interpretation of the criteria that consumers use to assess the extent to which processed food can be described as organic.
Not surprisingly, naturalness emerges as an important cross-cutting dimension. However, the new result is that it highlights the gap between the attention of food scientists, focused mainly on the effects of processing on naturalness, and the attention of consumers, focused mainly on the naturalness of the processes and their purpose.
• Managerial implications
This result could lead some brands to renounce certain technologies, even if they are desirable from a biochemical or functional point of view.
Research shows that the way consumers perceive food processing is not the same for organic and conventional products. A field of research is therefore open.
Over the last 15 years, the consumption of organic processed food (organic products) has significantly increased in the majority of countries around the world. This is particularly the case in Europe, where the organic food and drink market, worth more than 52 billion Euros in 2020, represents almost half of global consumption (Willer et al., 2021). Growth has been uninterrupted since the early 2000s, except in France (-1.3% in value) as well as Finland, and Sweden where a slight drop in organic product consumption marked 2021. Recently, this overall growth in sales of products labelled by the Euroleaf logo (Figure 1) has been driven mainly by organic processed food products. This is particularly the case in France and looking back over the last few years (French Organic Agency/Agence Bio), when it comes to the sale of organic food products, the scales are increasingly tipping in favor of processed organic food products. At the same time, the number of French actors specialised in food processing (economic actors carrying out food processing activity) has rocketed in recent years.
A 2004 EU regulation defines food processing as the application of processes, additives, and processing aids that significantly change the raw product (Box 1). The European Eurosheet regulation (Figure 1) states in 2007 that “organic processing methods ensure that the biological integrity and essential qualities of the product are maintained at all stages of the production chain”. Apart from this approach, which focuses on the biochemical nature of food, the regulation transposes the concept of “organic quality” from the agricultural aspects to the processing aspects without considering any dedicated analysis (Box 1)…
• Objectives / Research Questions
- Organic products and their processing in marketing literature
- The naturalness of food
- Analysis of interviews: what are respondents representations concerning organic processing?
- Managerial implications
ITAB, Institut de l’Agriculture et de l’Alimentation Biologiques, F-75012 Paris, France
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