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Organic food labels as a signal of sensory quality—insights from a cross-cultural consumer survey

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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.

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  1. The phenomenon of social desirability can be described as the dishonest answer behavior in interviews, whereby the interviewees, particularly concerning sensitive topics, tend to answer questions according to what is socially correct and acceptable behavior, rather than according to fact (Fisher 1993).

  2. It should be noted, that the term “conventional” is used for the strawberry yogurt sample with added aroma, although it is technically of organic quality.

  3. The effect strength is derived from the mean differences between the means of the blind and the labeled tests displayed in the fourth column of Tables 4 and 5.


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This article was produced with financial support from the Commission of the European Community under the 7th Framework Programme. We would like to thank all project research partners that participated in this article as well as the experts of the SME association, which supported the work.

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Correspondence to Sarah Hemmerling.

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Hemmerling, S., Obermowe, T., Canavari, M. et al. Organic food labels as a signal of sensory quality—insights from a cross-cultural consumer survey. Org. Agr. 3, 57–69 (2013).

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