Document Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2019

Capstone Advisor

Kevin O'Neill

Honors Reader

Rebecca Ortiz

Capstone Major


Capstone College

Arts and Science

Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories

Social Sciences

Subject Categories

Advertising and Promotion Management


Americans likely have a hunch that organic food is healthier for them. However, given several operational definitions of “healthy,” does this necessarily insist that consumers understand what organic really means? The current study goes on to explore the American mindset concerning organic food items. The USDA “organic” stamp of approval is widely recognized, but what exactly does it mean to consumers? With organic food sales increasing dramatically over the last few decades, it is useful to step back and assess the degree to which consumers understand the marketing directed toward them. Just because there is an “organic” stamp on a food item, should consumers trust that all regulations have been met? Some consumers do, and some do not, which is part of the reason why organic food is a divisive issue. Is it actually better for us? Why? Who says?

The purpose of this study is to determine if providing more information about an organic food item, in addition to the USDA label, will prompt consumers to purchase the product. In addition to purchase intent, four other dependent variables were tested: interest level, willingness to share the ad, willingness to consider it useful, and level of understanding after seeing the ad. This study was designed to function as a between-subjects study design. A survey was constructed to gauge the current shopping habits of a sample of Americans. All participants were asked the same introductory questions, which were then followed by two ads. There were six different advertisements: three promoting an apple and three promoting a box of cereal, which had a fictitious name. The two condition types, a piece of produce and a packaged good item, represent the two categories most frequently purchased by American shoppers. Each of the three advertisements had varying amounts of information about the product, ranging from just the USDA stamp to a brief paragraph describing the process the food when through and the benefits of eating it in its organic form.

It was found to a 95% confidence level that for the sample cereal (called “Infused Berry”) more information, in addition to the USDA stamp, made people more likely to find the advertisement interesting and useful, more likely to understand the ad and more likely to purchase the item. This demonstrates significance between version one (just the USDA stamp) and two (USDA stamp+ process explained) and version one and three (USDA stamp+process explained+benefits of organic) of the advertisements. There was no difference between versions two and three because it did not matter how much information was given as long there was some. However, “willingness to share” did not show any significant p-value or correlation with more information provided. For the apple, there was only significance for interesting, understanding, and usefulness, not willingness to share or purchase, between versions one and two and versions one and three. It was also found that there was a significant difference to the 95% confidence level between people who purchase organic food at any point (those who answered ‘yes’ or ‘sometimes’ to buying organic food) versus people who do not purchase it at all. Those who purchase organic food or sometimes do were more likely to be influenced by the information for only the cereal condition, not the apple, than people who do not currently buy organic food. Possible reasons for this disparity will be examined.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.

Available for download on Sunday, June 28, 2020