Abstract: Organic food labels are promising tools to transmit the positive image of organic products to consumers. Besides health-related aspects and environmental concerns, declaration of organic quality may have a positive impact on consumers' taste perception. Many studies have proven the positive image of organic products, but very few have considered the link between labeling a product as organic and the consumer's evaluation of sensory quality. This paper therefore investigates how organic consumers from six European countries (Germany, France, Italy, Poland, Switzerland, and the Netherlands) are influenced by the information that strawberry yogurt is produced organically or conventionally. Within the framework of a European Union-funded research project, a cross-cultural survey with a total of N=1,797 respondents was conducted between October 2010 and February 2011. Standardized computer-assisted interview techniques were combined with sensory tests. Results show that the presence of an organic label may lead to an enhancement of taste perception. With the exception of Italy, consumers evaluated the same product sample slightly better when an organic label was shown. For the evaluation of conventional products, the opposite effect was found for three out of six countries. These findings reveal that the positive sensory image of the organic food branch transfers to single organic products, resulting in a better taste evaluation. However, the relatively weak label effect observed in all study countries suggests that an improvement of the sensory image of organic products is advisable. This can be addressed by enhancing the sensory performance of food products as well as by implementing extensive sensory marketing activities.
Reference: Hemmerling, S., et al. Organic food labels as a signal of sensory quality - Insights from a cross-cultural consumer survey. Organic Agriculture 3(1):57-69.