Working paper

Do consumers buy organic food for sustainability or selfish reasons?

Fabian Bergès, and Sylvette Monier-Dilhan


The expansion of organic agriculture is a key issue in sustainable development. We study consumers’ motives for buying organic food products by analysing the combination of goods in baskets purchased by a panel of French households. Organic proneness can be motivated by concern for sustainable development and/or by self-interest (health or product quality considerations). The pro-social motivation of consumers of organic products is inferred from the presence of ‘Fair Trade’ products in their baskets, whereas consumer self-interest is deduced from the presence of healthy and higher quality labeled products. Our results on effective purchases indicate that buyers of organic products are primarily motivated by sustainability considerations, then by health and finally by expected quality improvement. However, certain household socio demographic characteristics impact on the ranking of self-interested motives. Higher education level, family size and organic loyalty have a positive impact on the quality-related motive for purchasing organic goods.


Organic food; Sustainability; Consumers’ choice; Basket analysis;

See also

Published in

TSE Working Paper, n. 13-372, January 2013, revised August 2013