Do US Consumers’ Perceive Local and Organic Food Differently? An Analysis Based on Means‐End Chain Analysis and Word Association

Rainer Haas, James Sterns, Oliver Meixner, Diane–Isis Nyob, Vera Traar


The market of local and organic food is still a niche market in the USA, despite its strong growth rates. Both offer consumers an alternative to a globalized anonymous food supply chain. Yet local food and organic food seem to be
overlapping and to some degree competing food concepts. While the organic food market somehow has managed to “mature”, being widely distributed in national supermarket chains, local food in the US still seems to be tied to a
“grassroots food movement”, being mainly distributed over short food supply chains. With several trends indicating sustained growth for local and organic consumption, this paper first addresses different connotations of local food
and compares them to standard definitions of organic food. The main focus is to explore the perception of US consumers towards local and organic food, using results from two different studies. Both studies use laddering techniques and word association tests, which were undertaken at Cornell University in New York State and at the University of Florida in the city of Gainesville. These findings are used to achieve a better understanding of the image of local and organic food, and the motives and values of local and organic food consumers.


local food; organic food; consumer values and motives; product attributes of local food and organic food

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ISSN 1869-6945


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