Consumers’ perceptions and policy implications towards the future of the Organic Food Sector in Italy

Research on organic consumers’ preferences has been given a lot of attention in the past, analysing in detail the motives of organic food consumption across the World. Less attention has been paid to the expectations of consumers change in the context of growing complexities of sustainable agriculture. The main goal of this study is to explore how the ongoing changes of the organic sector are reflected in consumers’ perspectives of organic agriculture and their preferences for organic food quality. The study was conducted in Italy with the use of the Q-methodology with a Q-set of 44 statements and a P-set of 20 participants. Three main groups of consumers were identified: “Mainstreaming for the better good”, “Critical supporters looking for more”, “Organic intensification supporters”. Despite each ideal-typical group showing different perceptions of the future of the organic movement, they all shared similar policy implications. Three main topics of discussion emerged from the results of this study which are: the expectations of the consumers towards the future of the organic movement, the role of trust in purchasing behaviors and the importance of supporting rural development.