The agricultural methods endured the technological revolution in the twentieth century. The invention and use of machinery had pushed traditional labor out of the farm, while the use of a large variety of chemical fertilizers and pesticides was introduced. Although this technical method of farming is still dominant and helps to increase the yield it does so without considering its effects on human health and the environment. In the last two decades, due to an increase in food-related diseases (Essoussi and Zahaf, 2008), worries about the nutritive value of food, an increase in environmental issues (Kuhar and Juvancic, 2010), and the problems related to the safety and quality of food have attracted the attention and interest of the consumers towards a healthy living (Laroche et al.
For a healthy lifestyle, going ―back to nature‖ has become a global trend. It is believed that everything that comes from nature is good and advantageous and ensures a balance between nature and humans (Chan, 2001).
Since the 1990s, consumers of industrialized nations have shown attention and interest in organic food products (Mutlu, 2007). This is because these food products eliminate consumers’ concerns about regular, conventional food. Also, organic food production integrates all aspects of pesticide-free and fertilizer-free production and adheres to the standards specified by the authorities (Lampkin, 1999).
The trend of organic food is now expanding from developed countries to developing countries like India and China (Techsci, 2013). Although developed countries like the United States of America and the European Union still generate the maximum sales, many organic products are grown and exported from Asia, Latin America, and Africa.
Export is the key driver for the growth of organic food in India, but with rising awareness and disposable income, along with governmental initiatives, Indian consumers are also becoming conscious about their health, and organic food is gaining wide acceptability. Although the domestic market is at an infancy stage, industry experts expect that in the coming years, the domestic organic food market will grow at a very fast pace (Wai, 2016).
The concept of organic food and farming is not new to India. In ancient times, food that was easily available from nature like wild berries and fruits was consumed by the early Indians. With the beginning of the early civilization, people started farming and since then organic agriculture has evolved in countless villages and farming communities. Ancient Hindu scriptures like Ramayana, Kautilya Arthasashthra, Mahabharata, Rig Veda, etc. have cited the use of organic inputs in agriculture (Behera et al., 2012). In early times, farmers used only natural farming methods and cultivated in fertile river valleys, where all resources were natural. However, agricultural practices changed and co-evolved with human development. In the early 1900s, globally, there was a transition in agricultural practices, that is, from traditional farm practices to technology-driven farm practices. Sir Albert Howard, known as the father of modern organic agriculture, believed that the adoption of new technical methods of agriculture resulted in the loss of soil fertility (Howard, 1940 as cited in Narayanan, 2005). He served in India as an agricultural adviser from 1905 to 1924 and acknowledged traditional Indian farming practices as being superior to conventional agriculture science. His revolutionary work provoked the organic movement in India, emphasizing the exclusion of chemical fertilizers and the use of compost and other organic sources of plant nutrients (Gopinath, n. d.). Most of India‘s produce was completely organic till mid the 1960s. However, to meet the demand of the increasing population and with the advent of the green revolution, traditional and environment-friendly farm practices were replaced by chemical fertilizers and technical practices. Although high-yielding seeds and the modern system of farming boosted production and this adopted technical method of agriculture is still dominant, since the 1990s, consumers are more concerned about the safety and quality of this type of conventionally produced food (Narayanan, 2005). Sustaining soil productivity has also become a main cause of concern as lands are being intensively cultivated under rigorous and multiple cropping systems. Such laboriousness combined with arbitrary agrochemicals use has resulted in many problems, like widespread deficiency of secondary and micronutrients, nutrient leaching and loss, salinity, low efficiency of input, and deceleration of total factor productivity. The productivity of rain-fed agriculture has also continued to be low and unstable due to unusual monsoon behavior, poor farmers, low investments, declining farm size, and degraded soils with low water retentive capacity and multiple nutrient deficiencies. These realizations have led to concepts like Rishi Krishi, Biodynamic farming, Do-nothing agriculture, Eco-farming, Homa farming, and Organic farming. The essence, however, remains the same, i.e., back to nature (Gopinath, n. d.).
In simple words, organic food is that food which is free from chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). This food doesn‘t undergo irradiation too (Marwa and Scott, 2013). The United Kingdom Register of Organic Food Standards (UKROFS) has defined the production/farming procedure through which organic products are obtained as ―being designed to produce optimum quantities of food of high nutritional quality by using management practices that aim to avoid the use of agrochemical inputs and which minimize damage to the environment and wildlife‖ (Jones et al., 2001). According to APEDA‘s National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP), ―Organic products are grown under a system of agriculture without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides with an environmentally and socially responsible approach. This method of farming works at the grass-root level preserving the reproductive and regenerative capacity of the soil, good plant nutrition, and sound soil management, and it produces nutritious food that is rich in vitality and possesses resistance to diseases.
Organic is not about a product; it refers to a particular farming system through which organic products are derived. Organic certification helps consumers to recognize organic products, differentiate them from conventional products, and to protect themselves from the misuse of the term ‗organic‘. Certification makes purchase decisions easy (NCOF, n.d.). To get a certification, producers must meet the specified standards (Gopinath, n.d.). In some countries, the government formulates, sets, and regulates organic standards & certifications. The European Union, the United States, and Japan have comprehensive organic laws and standards, and only certified producers may use the term ―organic‖. Non-profit organizations and private companies deal with certification in countries where there are no organic legislation and guidelines by the government may or may not exist (NCOF, n.d.).
Due to climatic conditions and varied geography, India has an inherent advantage in organic farming. The nation is experiencing good growth in the organic food sector. The key features of the sector are discussed below:
Conventional food refers to the food produced by the ―farming systems dependent on the input of artificial fertilizers and/or chemicals and pesticides or which are not in conformity with the basic standards of organic production‖ (NPOP, 2005). Conventional farming involves the weed’s use of fertilizers to supplement nutrients, herbicides to control weeds, and chemicals to protect the plants. It results in environmental pollution and low input: output ratio (Behera et al., 2012).
The word Natural‖ does not have a regulated definition. It can mean different things to different people. It depends on many things such as who is the manufacturer of the food, how he promotes it and from where the product is sold (VanHaren, 2013). According to USDA, a food product labeled as natural‖ should behavior not be processed or should be done only minimally, and it should not contain any color or artificial ingredients. Minimal processing means that the food is processed in such a way that the product is not altered fundamentally. However, this definition is not precise and does not address the method of manufacturing or processing the food (Bradford, 2015).
Consumer behaviour is the study of individuals, groups, or organizationsbehavior and the processes they use to select, secure, use, and dispose of products, services, experiences, or ideas to satisfy needs and the impacts that these processes have on the consumer and society (Hawkins et al., 2011). According to Solomon (1995), consumer behaviour is the study of the processes involved when individuals or groups select, purchase, use or dispose of products, services, ideas, or experiences to satisfy needs and desires‖. Schiffman & Kanuk (2007) describe consumer behavior as the behavior that consumers display in searching for, purchasing, using, evaluating, and disposing of products and services that they expect will satisfy their needs‖. An array of factors, such as cultural, social, personal, affect, and psychological, affect consumer-buying behavior marketers need to understand. The buying decision of a consumer varies for different types of products. For complex products, consumers get more involved and for regular products, their involvement is generally low. It is important for marketers to understand how consumers make their buying decisions which and how the various factors influence their decisions (Kotler, 2002).
This chapter presents the research work conducted throughout the world in the context of consumer buying behaviour towards organic food. Several studies are reviewed and their findings are presented. The findings are carefully analyzed and analyzed synthesized, which helped in the identification of the research gaps. And finally, a theoretical framework is developed to set the direction for further research
In this era of environmental pollution and health consciousness, most developed countries of Europe and North America have adopted the concept of „back to nature‟ by demanding and consuming green products like organic food. Fastest emerging economies of Asia like China and India are also following this trend (TechSci, 2013). But, the tendency of an individual to consume organic food depends on a number of the fastest several factors, such as knowledge and awareness, attitude, intention to buy, and the buying capability, etc. The determination and understanding of these factors help in understanding consumers‘ needs, wants, and demands. A lot of research has been conducted throughout the world to identify the main characteristics of the organic food consumers, their perceptions, knowledge and awareness, motivations to buy and also the factors impeding the purchase of organic food products. Researchers have also studied the relationship between awareness, attitude, intention, willingness to purchase,d consumption pattern of organic food products. Few studies have integrated consumers‘ preferences also, such as willingness to pay the price premium and preferred place of buying. To understand organic food consumers better, some studies have focused on organic consumers‘ satisfaction also.
The main findings of the studies conducted during the period 2000 to 2017 and published in international peer-reviewed journals are presented.