Exploring consumer behavior and policy options in organic food adoption: Insights from the Australian wine sector

Firouzeh Taghikhah*, Alexey Voinov, Nagesh Shukla, Tatiana Filatova

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)
755 Downloads (Pure)


Organic food has important environmental and health benefits, decreasing the toxicity of agricultural production, improving soil quality, and overall resilience of farming. Increasing consumers’ demand for organic food reinforces the rate of organic farming adoption and the level of farmers' risk acceptance. Despite the recorded 20% growth in organically managed farmland, its global land area is still far less than expected, only 1.4%. Increasing demand for organic food is an important pathway towards sustainable food systems. We explore this consumer-centric approach by developing a theoretically- and empirically-grounded agent-based model. Three behavioral theories – theory of planned behavior, alphabet theory, and goal-framing – describe individual food purchasing decisions in response to policies. We take wine sector as an example to calibrate and validate the model for the case study of Sydney, Australia. The discrepancy between consumer intention and purchasing behavior for organic wine can be explained by a locked-in vicious cycle. We assess the effectiveness of different policies such as wine taxation, and informational-education campaigns to influence consumer choices. The model shows that these interventions are non-additive: raising consumer awareness and increasing tax on less environmentally friendly wines simultaneously is more successful in promoting organic wine than the sum of the two policies introduced separately. The phenomenon of undercover altruism amplifies the preference for organic wine, and the tipping point occurs at around 35% diffusion rate in the population. This research suggests policy implications to help decision-makers in the food sector make informed decisions about organic markets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-124
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Early online date13 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020


  • UT-Hybrid-D
  • Complex systems
  • Consumption pattern
  • Organic agriculture
  • Social interactions
  • Sustainable food
  • Behavioral theory


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