Can the "Euro-Leaf" Logo Affect Consumers' Willingness-To-Buy and Willingness-To-Pay for Organic Food and Attract Consumers' Preferences? An Empirical Study in Greece

Charalampia Anastasiou, Kiriaki Keramitsoglou, Nikos Kalogeras, Maria Tsagkaraki, Ioanna Kalatzi, Konstantinos Tsagarakis
2017 Sustainability  
The "Euro-leaf" organic certification logo was adopted and made compulsory by the European Union (EU) a few years ago; the level of consumers' recognition of this logo has been explored. This paper provides important insights into the effectiveness of the logo in the Greek market. The "Euro-leaf" logo was compared with the two previous EU organic logos; i.e., the voluntary "Organic Farming" and the withdrawn "Bio". In total, 472 face-to-face interviews were conducted using actual presentations
more » ... f five officially certified food products. The aim of this research was to investigate the consumers' willingness-to-buy (WTB), willingness-to-pay (WTP), and their preference towards each of the three logos used for the certification of organic products. Our analysis concludes that for the time being the new logo has failed to develop into a powerful instrument for affecting consumers' WTB and WTP. Furthermore, it was found to have been the least influential factor that determined their preferences. Design changes and improvements might be necessary in order to better communicate the organic food message. 2 of 17 concerning the standards meant to promote that quality. It is thus essential for the organic certification logo to be protected, since its loss would lead the organic market to failure [9, 10] . The interest, hence, is centered on how to reinforce consumers to verify quality with organic logos, gain consumers' confidence in the information conveyed by organic logos, and ensure that a redesigned credence attribute still attracts and affects consumers' behaviour. The latter also results from the ambiguous evidence about the effect of credence on consumer behavioural intentions [11] . The certification organisation or institution plays an important role in verifying whether main criteria have been met and in affecting consumer preference [12] [13] [14] . The key criteria include: (i) the conceptual clarification of organic agriculture standards, (ii) transparency; the standards are available to the public, (iii) consistency; the same standards are applied to all organic food products, which is of utmost importance because consumers usually associate organic food with vegetables and fruit [15] [16] [17] , (iv) independence; a lack of ties and financial interconnectedness between the logo user and the certification organisation, and (v) public participation in standards development, including farmers, retailers, food industry stakeholders, and consumers [18, 19] ; particularly when global and local partnerships have to interact [20] , and local traditions to be supported [21] . Without doubt, European Union (EU) legislation has provided a positive framework to secure these criteria [22] ; the question, then, is whether the relevant information can easily and effectively get across to the public. Previous research has shown that consumers did not take into consideration all the standards represented by the organic logo certification when it comes to buying a product. In addition, accurate and reliable information presented in a simple way could further contribute to the development of the organic food market [3, [23] [24] [25] . Nonetheless, while there is abundant research on what drives consumer beliefs, attitudes, and behaviour regarding specific health-related and quality-related labels compared to conventional ones [2, [26] [27] [28] [29] [30] , and the effect of brand redesigns on consumer attitudes and preferences [31] [32] [33] , research is scarce about the effects of different types of organic labels (e.g., voluntary vs. mandatory) introduced over time in the same market by public competent authorities on consumer preferences and behavioural intentions. To the best of our knowledge, only the study that compares organic certification logos that were introduced by third-parties into certain countries is by Janssen and Hamm [32] . The authors show that consumers' willingness-to-pay (WTP) differed substantially between the selected old voluntary EU logos, governmental logos, private logos, and prefixes of "organic" without logos. The highest price premiums were mostly recorded for well-known and trusted logos. Yet, their study does not account for the comparison of the EU's mandatory newly introduced logo (i.e., the "Euro-leaf") with its preceding voluntary (optional) EU logos. Our contribution investigates this aspect in the context of the adoption and compulsory application of the "Euro-leaf" logo within the EU food retailing sector. By comparing only labels officially issued by EU competent authorities, we assume that there are no external effects related to trust in the credibility of agencies. In this paper, we examine whether different types of EU logos (voluntary vs. mandatory) influence consumers' behavioural intentions and preferences. We recognise the complexity of consumers' choice behaviour often relying on cognitive and affective processes for information processing [34] . This consumer information is helpful to provide useful insights for policy-makers about food quality labelling and optimising public adoption. The objective of this paper is thus twofold. First, we examine whether the new "Euro-leaf" logo can affect consumers' willingness-to-buy (WTB) and WTP for five organic certified foods by comparing three EU organic certification logos to one another (the mandatory newly introduced "Euro-leaf" with two dismissed-voluntarily-logos: "Organic Farming" and "Bio"). Second, we explore whether the redesign of a label that certifies organic produce in the EU attracts consumer preferences. To address these objectives, we followed a deterministic research approach and conducted a large-scale survey in Greece. Sustainability 2017, 9, 1450 3 of 17 Theoretical Approach and Hypotheses Development Policy-makers and industry managers must appreciate how consumers recognise and evaluate the nutritional and health-related values of food labels, and, consequently, make food choices. The dual-process theories of information processing posit that individual market participants (e.g., consumers) often evaluate information in two ways [34] . The first way implies that thinking is fast. That is, consumers often rely on easily processed or obvious sources of information, such as heuristics, instincts, and emotions. Thereby, decisions are made intuitively. In contrast, the second way implies that thinking is slow. It involves deliberation and logic as well as greater volumes of information. Recent research recognises that in the case of the credence/external attributes of a product (e.g., price, regional or organic labelling) consumers may follow a dual-process pathway that allows them to evaluate just enough information of attribute cues, which represent external links of credence product attributes (e.g., certifications on product labels) [28, 35] . The fast thinking resulting from the cognitive missing process and the slow thinking resulting in conscious decision-making over time (e.g., due to familiarity with the decision context), may enhance consumers' confidence. Consumers feel confident and perceive satisfaction about choosing products based on their search and credence attribute cues [36] , and they feel that they are able to identify certified products at the point-of-sale [37] . Often, consumers feel familiar and seem to be able to verify whether or not a food product was produced according the promised processes, characteristics, and production system controls relying on the information demonstrated by a quality label/logo [7, 38] . That is, the information asymmetry in the producer-consumer relationship may be diminished [32, 39] . Background of Organic Labelling in the EU Launched in the late 1990s, the first voluntary certification logo for organic products depicted the EU flag with an ear of wheat in the center and the statement "Organic Farming" in the official language of the EU member-states in question (Figure 1a ). When the old Regulation (EEC) no 2092/91 was amended by regulation (EC) no. 834/2007, the logo was replaced by a new obligatory one [40, 41] . However, the new logo (Figure 1b ) was immediately withdrawn from the market, following a legal dispute with the German chain super market ALDI, for bearing significant similarities with the organic food logo the company used (Figure 1c ). In addition, the fact that the prefix "bio" was not directly linked with organic production in English-speaking countries (where the term "organic" has wide currency) see for example [42, 43] , resulted in the withdrawal of this logo. Sustainability 2017, 9, 1450 3 of 17 dual-process theories of information processing posit that individual market participants (e.g., consumers) often evaluate information in two ways [34] . The first way implies that thinking is fast. That is, consumers often rely on easily processed or obvious sources of information, such as heuristics, instincts, and emotions. Thereby, decisions are made intuitively. In contrast, the second way implies that thinking is slow. It involves deliberation and logic as well as greater volumes of information. Recent research recognises that in the case of the credence/external attributes of a product (e.g., price, regional or organic labelling) consumers may follow a dual-process pathway that allows them to evaluate just enough information of attribute cues, which represent external links of credence product attributes (e.g., certifications on product labels) [28, 35] . The fast thinking resulting from the cognitive missing process and the slow thinking resulting in conscious decision-making over time (e.g., due to familiarity with the decision context), may enhance consumers' confidence. Consumers feel confident and perceive satisfaction about choosing products based on their search and credence attribute cues [36] , and they feel that they are able to identify certified products at the point-of-sale [37] . Often, consumers feel familiar and seem to be able to verify whether or not a food product was produced according the promised processes, characteristics, and production system controls relying on the information demonstrated by a quality label/logo [7, 38] . That is, the information asymmetry in the producer-consumer relationship may be diminished [32, 39] .
doi:10.3390/su9081450 fatcat:7ot65aojwjaedj37zkul6qw2uy