Two studies, drawing on large datasets of European consumers collected as part of Strength2Food, have recently been published. These were undertaken as part of Strength2Food’s consumer research on Food Quality Schemes, coordinated by Prof. Monika Hartmann (University of Bonn).

The first study, published in Appetite, draws on empirical evidence from Germany, Norway and the UK and is entitled ‘Looking Behind the Choice of Organic: A Cross-country Analysis Applying Integrated Choice and Latent Variable Models’. It investigates the role of organic labelling in consumers’ purchase decisions for apples. It finds that price is by far the most important factor driving consumers’ purchase decisions for apples, followed by country of origin, while the organic attribute appears relatively less important. Moreover, it finds that “it is not the organic production method that matters for consumers, but rather the specific organic label.” Consumers in fact reveal a strong preference for products displaying their national organic label, rather than the EU “green leaf” organic logo, despite the fact that the organic standards behind the respective national/ EU labels are the same.

A second related study investigates ‘What determines consumers’ use of eco-labels? Taking a close look at label trust and is published in Ecological Economics. Using cross-national consumer data, it shows that trust in an eco-label, such as organic, positively affects use of that label, and highlights the importance of knowledge of third-party certification in affecting trust in, and use of, that label. Consequently, trust matters for the success of eco-labels and third-party verification is a critically important mechanism for enhancing consumer trust.

Both studies confirm the much higher recognition and positive evaluation of national (organic) labels compared to the EU Food Quality Schemes, such as the “green leaf” organic label. This has prompted on-going work on how to improve consumer perceptions and use of EU Food Quality Schemes, and the organic “green leaf” logo in particular.