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TENDENCIES AND CHARACTERISTICS OF ORGANIC FOOD CONSUMPTION IN ROMANIA.

1. INTRODUCTION

Demand for organic products is increasing all over the world due to changes in consumer lifestyle and eating habits. Consumers have more information about the food market and are becoming more concerned about living healthily (Kubelakova, A., Kosiciarova, I., 2016). Therefore, producers should be more focused on consumer perceptions towards organic products in order to meet consumers' needs (Schleenbecker, R., Hamm, U., 2013). Consumers perceive organic food positively and link it with three aspects: health, quality and environmental concerns (Pearson et al., 2010). In general, demand for organic products is increasing and changing in character from a niche market to a well-developed market. It is connected with consumer perception of food, which is changing continuously (Aygen, F.G., 2012).

There has been rapid growth in the organic market at a global level, and this has been reflected in the Romanian food market, where both the number of organic producers and consumption volumes have increased substantially (Bozga, N-A., 2015). According to statistical data, the number of organic producers increased fourfold from 2010 to 2016 (NIS, 2017). However, in comparison to other EU member states, the level of consumption in Romania is very low. Consumption per capita in Romania represents only 1 euro being spent on organic food. A greater share of organic production is exported to other countries such as Austria, Germany, Italy, Switzerland or Denmark (Toma, M-A., 2015).A possible explanationfor this is provided by Draghici et al. (2016), who state that, based on a study conducted in Romania, economic factors have a major impact on the dynamics of the organic market. However, Saracin, V.C., and Vasile, A. (2015) demonstrate enormous potential in the organic food sector, especially in Romania. It is necessary to identify consumer profiles which include purchasing behaviour, motives, and product perception in order to design a suitable strategy for fostering organic consumption in Romania. (Petrescu et al., 2016). According to Balasescu, S., (2016) consumers in Romania are concerned about healthy products, sustainable agriculture and their effecton the environment. This creates a certain platform for organic industry and increasing demand for these products in future. Moreover, there is a trend whereby Romanian families with children are becoming more concerned about food safety and living more healthily (Dobrescu, M., 2017).

The aim of the study was to identify the purchasing behaviour of Romanian consumers and their perceptions towards organic food in order to better understand their needs and provide producers with insight on consumer behaviour.

2. MATERIAL AND METHODS

The study was focused on consumer purchasing behaviour in terms of purchase frequency, place of purchase, criteria considered during purchase and logo recognition. Primary data were obtained through a questionnaire survey conducted in May-June 2017 on a random sample of 787 respondents in Romania. The questionnaire was distributed online via emails and social media.60.7% of respondents were women, while 39.3% were men. Themajority of those surveyed were relatively young. 52.2% were aged between 18 and 30, while 22.5% were aged between 31 and 45. Those in the age groups between 46-60 years and 60 and above were represented by 17.3% and 8% of respondents respectively.66.5 % of respondents had graduated universityand 33.5% had only a high school education. 75.5% lived in urban and 24.5% in rural areas.The income structure of respondents was as follows: up to 1000 lei (5%), between 1000-2000 lei (21.5%), between 2000-3000 lei (27.8%), between 3000-4000 lei (20.7%) and more than 4000 lei (25%).

Primary data based on the questionnaire survey were processed and analysed using the statistics programme SAS Enterprise Guide 5.1. Descriptive statistics were also used and the following tests were applied:

* Chi-Square Test of Independence

* Cramer's'V coefficient

For deeper analysis, several hypotheses were formulated:

Hypothesis No. 1: There is adependence between frequency of purchase and respondents'gender

Hypothesis No. 2: There is adependence between frequency of purchase and respondents'age

Hypothesis No. 3: There is adependence between frequency of purchase and respondents'residence

Hypothesis No. 4: There is adependence between frequency of purchase and respondents'income

Hypothesis No. 5: There is adependence between frequency of purchase and respondents'education

3. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

According to the results of the questionnaire survey, consumers in Romania mostly purchase organic food weekly (26.2%), once every 2-3 months (22.5%) or once every 2-3 weeks (17.5%). Organic food is purchased every day by only 10.2% of respondents. Similar results were obtained in a Romanian study conducted by Vietoris et al., (2016) where the majority of respondents were found to purchase organic products weekly or monthly. The other author sustains that Romanian consumers buy organic products every week (Toma, M-A., 2015). Another study focused on organic food in Romania proved that higher prices together with low income contribute to the limited frequency of purchase (Bozga, N-A., 2015).
everyday            10,2%
weekly              26,2%
once in 2-3 week    17,5%
monthly             14,7%
once in 2-3 months  22,5%
do not know          8,9%

Fig. 1 Frequency of purchase
Source: questionnaire survey 2017

Note: Table made from bar graph.


For deeper analysis regarding the frequency of purchase, the study examined dependencies between purchasing behaviour and demographical factors such as gender, age, place of residence, income and education. Based on the results (see Table 1), educationcan be shown to have a statistically significant influence on purchase frequency, albeit a weak one (Cramer's V coefficient is 0.1296). No correlation was proved with gender, age, place of residence or income.

A deeper analyses of purchase frequency and education shows that consumers who had graduated university tend to buy organic food more often than those with lower alevel of education. Respondents who had graduated university have a higher percentage share in the everyday and weekly purchase categories, while respondents with lower education are more likely to buy organic products ona monthly basis or once every 2-3 months (see Fig. 2).

Education plays an important role in consumer perception of organic food and influences purchasing patterns due to the fact that higher education leads to higher awareness of respondents' health values (Wojciechowska-Solis, J., Soroka, A., 2017). The strong impact of education on the purchase of organic food has been proven in several studies (Matysik-Pejas et al. 2017; Dimitri, C., Dettmann, R.L., 2012; Shijiu et al. 2010). In addition, according to Polat, F., (2015), it is important to educate young generations in schools in order to increase their interest intheir health and environment.
                        higher     high
                       education  school

do not know             7,84%     10,98%
once in 2 - 3 months   21,41%     24,62%
monthly                12,81%     18,56%
once every 2 - 3 week  18,16%     16,29%
weekly                 27,92%     22,73%
everyday               11,85%      6,82%

Fig. 2. Level of education and frequency of purchase
Source: questionnaire sutvey 2017

Note: Table made from bar graph.


The study was focused on the importance of several criteria during the purchasing process, which respondents evaluated on a scale from 1 (very important) to 5 (not at all important). According to the results (see Fig. 3),criteria classified as 'very important'include taste, followed by the Romanian origin of products, nutritional qualities, and product origin. Slightly important or not at all important are brand reputation, packaging, and label. Furthermore, respondents were asked to choose the most important criteria out of those above. The most commonly chosen factor was taste (43.58%), followed by nutritional qualities (17.03%) and product origin (8.64%). The least important were brand reputation (0.38%), promotion/discounts (0.51%) and packaging (0.64%). Similar results were obtained in a Romanian study dealing with organic food, where consumers mostly considered health and taste as major motives in their purchase (Petrescu et al., 2016). Nutritional qualities as one of the important aspects can be linked to health consciousness of respondents. There is a positive correlation between the intention to purchase organic food and consumers' health (Petrescu et al., 2017). In fact, consumers search for organic food in order to maintain their health (Dumea A-C., 2012).

Regarding the place of purchase, the majority of Romanian consumers buy organic food at supermarkets/hypermarkets (39.8%) or at local markets (30%). Less commonlocations include specialty stores (13.6%) and certificated producers (12.7%). Only a few respondents (1.1%) purchase them online. These results are supported by IFOAM EU (2012), which indicated specialty shops, supermarkets and farmer markets as the major market channels.
specialised store                 13,6%
supermarket/ hypermarket          39,8%
directly from certified producer  12,7%
online store                       1,1%
open market                       30,0%
other                              2,8%

Fig. 4. Place of purchase
Source: questionnaire survey 2017

Note: Table made from bar graph.


On the topic of logo recognition, a majority of respondents correctly identified the logo for organic products (75.86%). The rest of the respondents chose other logos, such as those representing protected geographical indication (6.86%), protected designation of origin (6.86%) and fairtrade (10.42%). In general,brand perception of organic products is at a high level in Romania. Similar results were obtained by Matysik-Pejas, R., Zmuda, J. (2011), who stated that a majority of respondents recognise organic products based on the logo or graphic symbol.

4. CONCLUSION

The organic food market in Romania is growing continuously and has great potential in future. The majority of consumers recognise the logo for organic products and purchase these products weekly or monthly from supermarkets or open markets. The most important criterion considered during purchase are taste and nutritional qualities, which can be associated with health consciousness and consumers' desire for a healthy lifestyle. The least important criteria were brand reputation, discounts, and packaging. Furthermore, there is a correlation between frequency of purchase and respondents' level of education, where consumers who had graduated university purchase these products more often than those with high school education. Therefore, in order to increase the consumption of organic products in Romania, it is necessary to educate consumers, promote these products at a national level as healthier than conventional food and highlight their higher nutritional quality.

REFERENCES

Aygen, F.G., (2012), Attitudes and behavior of Turkish consumers with respect to organic foods, Int. J. Bus. Soc. Sci, Volume 3, (pp.262-273).

Balasescu, S., (2016), Bio agricultural product market in Romania and Europe. Bull. Transilvania Univ. Brasov, Volume 9, (pp.265-372).

Bozga, N-A., (2015), The Perception of Romanian Consumer upon Organic Products' Prices, Procedia Economics and Finance. Volume 27. (pp. 323-333).

Dimitri, C., Dettmann, R.L., (2012), Organic Food Consumers: What Do We Really Know about Them?, British Food Journal, Volume 114 (pp. 1157-1183).

Dobrescu, M., (2017), Organic production and market overview, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.

Draghici, M.C., Popa, E.E., Popa, M.E., Mitelut, A.C., (2016), Romanian Organic Food--Study on Consumer Behavior. J. EcoAgriTour, Volume 12, (pp.160-167).

Dumea, A-C., (2012), Factors Influencing Consumption of Organic Food in Romania, The USV Annals of Economics and Public Administration, Volume 12, (pp.107-113).

IFOAM EU (2012), Romania, Retrieved from http://www.ifoam-eu.org/en/romania

Kubelakova, A., Kosiciarova, I., (2016), Organic food and its position in retail stores in Slovak Republic. International Scientific Days (ISD) Conference on Agri Food Value Chain --Challenges for Natural Resources Management Society, Nitra

Matysik-Pejas, R., Szafranska, M., Horska, E., (2017), Factors Affecting Consumer Buying process of organic food in Krakow Urban Areas, Economic Science for Rural Development, Latvia Univ Agriculture (pp. 314-321).

Matysik-Pejas, R., Zmuda, J. (2011), Wybrane uwarunkowania percepcji zywnosci ekologicznej przez konsumentow (Selected determinants of perception of organic food by consumer), Roczniki Naukowe SERiA, Tom XIII, Zeszyt 4, (pp. 124-128).

NIS, (2017), Retrieved from http://www.insse.ro/cms/

Pearson, D., Henryks, J., Jones, H., (2010), Organic food: What we know (and do not know) about consumers. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems,Volume26, (pp.171-177).

Petrescu, A.G., Oncioiu, I., Petrescu, M., (2017), Perception of Organic Food Consumption in Romania, Foods, Volume 6 (pp.

Petrescu, D. C., Petrescu-Mag, R. M., Burny, P., Azadi, H., (2016), A New Wave in Romania: Organic Food. Consumers' Motivations, Perceptions and Habits, Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, Volume 41, (pp.46-75).

Polat, F., (2015), Organic Farming Education in Azerbaijan, Present and Future, Procedia--Social and Behavioral Sciences. Volume 197. (pp. 2407-2410).

Saracin, V.C., Vasile, A., (2015), An Exploratory Research Regarding Romanian Organic Farming Sector. Agro Life Sci. J.4, 119-123.

Schleenbecker, R., Hamm, U., (2013) Consumers' perception of organic product characteristics. A review. Appetite, 71, 420-429

Shijiu, Y., Mo, Ch., Lili, D., Linhai, W., (2010), Consumers' purchase intention of organic food in China, Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, Volume 90 (pp. 1361-1367).

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Vietoris, V., Kozelova, D., Mellen, M., Chrenekova, M., Potclan, J.E., Fikselova, M., Kopkas, P., Horska, E., (2016),Analysis of Consumer Preferences at Organic Food Purchase in Romania, Polish Journal of Food and Nutrition Sciences. Volume 66. (pp. 139-146).

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Cristina Bianca POCOL

University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine of Cluj Napoca, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Animal Production and Food Safety, Email: cristina.pocol@usamvcluj.ro

Peter SEDIK

Slovak University of Agriculture in Nitra, Faculty of Economics and Management, Department of Marketing and Trade, Email: sedik.peter@gmail.com

Darko RISTOVSKI

University Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3, Email: darkoristovski2003@yahoo.com
Table 1. Influence of demographic factors on the purchase frequency

Factors                              p-value  correlation  Cramer's V
                                                           coefficient

Frequency of purchase and gender     0.8085       no       -
Frequency of purchase and age        0.4385       no       -
Frequency of purchase and residence  0.1095       no       -
Frequency of purchase and income     0.1981       no       -
Frequency of purchase and education  0.0214       yes      0.1296

Source: questionnaire survey 2017
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Author:Pocol, Cristina Bianca; Sedik, Peter; Ristovski, Darko
Publication:Geographica Timisiensis
Date:Sep 22, 2017
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