Organic vs. Local: Comparing individualist and collectivist motivations for “ethical” food consumption

  • Shyon Baumann University of Toronto
  • Athena Engman
  • Emily Huddart-Kennedy
  • Josee Johnston
Keywords: ethical consumption, organic food, local food, consumer motivations, caring consumption


We extend prior research on “ethical” food consumption by examining how motivations can vary across demographic groups and across kinds of ethical foods simultaneously. Based on a survey of food shoppers in Toronto, we find that parents with children under the age of 5 are most likely to report intention to purchase organic foods and to be primarily motivated by health and taste concerns. In contrast, intention to purchase local food is motivated by collectivist concerns – the environment and supporting the local economy – and is associated with educated, white consumers. In addition to highlighting this distinction in motivations for organic vs. local food consumption, we also argue that the predominant “individualist” vs. “collectivist” framing in the scholarly literature should be reformulated to accommodate an intermediate motivation. Organic food consumption is often motivated by a desire to consume for others (children) in ways that are neither straightforwardly individualist nor collectivist, but rather exemplifies a caring motivation that is intermediate between the two.
Original Research Article