Once people go organic, they are increasingly unlikely to go back to conventional foods, according to a study in the Journal of Consumer Research published by Dutch social scientists. Organic food products are a rapidly growing industry in the U.S., with consumers spending $43 billion in 2016, an increase of $4.2 billion from the previous year. Given its benefits for health, water quality, workers, wildlife, and the wider environment, it is little wonder that more and more people are voting for the future of ecologically and public health-sensitive farming systems with their food dollars and buying organic.
For the study, researchers tracked over 8,700 consumers for 20 months, using the loyalty card for a major Dutch food retailer. They found that most consumers start by consuming organic dairy products first, milk being the primary entry point into organic. Over time people are likely to not only stick with organic certified milk, but expand their purchases into other organic products.
John Thøgersen, PhD, coauthor of the study and professor at the Aarhus University of Business and Social Science in Denmark, explains the process in a press release as follows: “In connection with organic consumption, there has previously been talk of an ‘organic staircase’ in the sense that consumers are generally buying certain organic products before others. But our research shows that in fact, we’re dealing with an escalator where the upward movement is taking place automatically. Once you’ve purchased your first organic product, you’re not likely to stop. You’ll continue, and over time, you’ll increase your organic shopping list. And you’ll even be following a rather predictable consumption pattern.”