A recent report from the University of Exeter in England that looked at the nature of organic production, consumption and marketing in England and Wales shows a gap between organic production standards and consumers' expectations.
Those same expectations, however, might not apply to U.S. consumers, according to the Organic Trade Association, Greenfield, Mass.
The report, commissioned by England's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and co-authored with the University of Gloucestershire, also reveals a highly committed set of consumers and a need to improve awareness about what organic does and doesn't mean, according to a release from the University of Exeter.
Research findings show that 84% of consumers surveyed believe organic produce is healthier and that their concerns regarding food involve health, food safety and environmental effects of production. These concerns could translate into increased expectations consumers bring into their understandings of organic food, the study concludes.
"There may be a danger of an expectations gap developing between what is legally required of farmers to receive organic certification for their produce and what consumers expect it could deliver," Matt Lobley, from the University of Exeter, said in the release.
One of those gaps, according to Lobley, is the assumption by many hardcore consumers that organic produce is local and fresh. However, according to the research, 10% of the largest farms in England account for more than half of organic sales in the country.
Barbara Haumann, spokeswoman for the Organic Trade Association, said expectations and attitudes of consumers toward organics in the U.S. are not relatable to those in the U.K.
"The British see things very differently than we do," Haumann said. "It's an island, so historically the Brits have had to import much of their organics. You can't apply the same standards and expectations there with those in the U.S."
However, a study on U.S. consumers' organic attitudes and beliefs by the OTA and Kiwi Magazine in April concluded that only half to one-third of the nearly three-quarters of U.S. families that purchase organic products had strong knowledge of certification procedures and/or standards for organic products. Only 13% qualified as "organic influencers" — parents well-informed about organic products.