Social context factors and consumer innovativeness as drivers of organic food adoption amongst millennials in South Africa

Modern-day marketing practitioners are more interested in understanding consumers’ acceptance of innovative products rather than obliviously introducing new products to the market, only to be left to endure the costly and disruptive consequences of product rejection. Once practitioners fully understand the aspects that stimulate consumers to adopt innovations, they will be able to devise well-informed strategies that are bound to accelerate the adoption of new products, create more demand, and positively impact their long-term profitability. Furthermore, once relevant knowledge is available, the high rejection of new products will likely to be lessened to a reasonable proportion. For marketing practitioners to understand the drivers of organic food espousal amongst Millennials, scholars must conduct relevant studies on the complex relationships that exist between adoption and its antecedent factors. Recent studies have maintained that research focus is skewed towards individual-level factors, while most scholars overlook the predictive ability of social context factors on Adoption Behaviour. Therefore, it became expedient that an empirical analysis of this kind must be conducted to forge a more profound understanding of how the social context factors impact the Adoption Behaviour of organic food, particularly in an emerging economy like South Africa. This study targeted Millennials, particularly in the urban cities of South Africa, i.e., Johannesburg and Pretoria (Gauteng), Durban (Kwa-Zulu Natal) and Cape Town (Western Cape). A proposed conceptual framework portraying the relationships between the studied constructs was developed, resulting in several suppositions that were later subjected to hypothesis testing. A non-probabilty and conveniently accessible sample was used to gather primary data from 385 respondents. Both self-administered online suveys and researcher administered survey questionnaires were used for data colletion which yielded a response rate of 78.9%. This raw data was quantitatively analysed through SPSS 27 (for descriptive statistics) and through Structural Equation Modelling using Amos 27 (for inferential statistics). Path Modelling was used to test the hypothesised relationships of the structural model in a bid to either reject or fail to reject these suppositions. Moderation and moderated mediation effects were analysed using Hayes’ PROCESS Procedure for SPSS 4.0. While the moderating effect of Consumer Innovativesness was firmly establishled, this study, however, failed to garner enough statistical evidence to support the moderated mediation effects. Although the results of this study mostly confirmed the results from earlier studies, some new and exciting insights were derived; for example, an inverse relationship was found between Attitude and Adoption Behaviour, resulting in the nullification of hypothesis 8. The findings of this study delivered some critical theoretical contributions to the extant literature and meaningfully advanced the frontier of knowledge within the broader fields of generational and behavioural studies by providing fresh insights into the nature of the relationships between the studied constructs. Furthermore, this study also proffers practical suggestions that may aid marketing practitioners in devising and adopting well-informed strategies that will eventually enhance the adoption of organic food, particularly within the younger generational cohort. While a mismatch between Millennials’ Attitudes and their Adoption Behaviour was firmly established, this study further corroborates the findings from previous scholars that addressing negative Attitudes towards novelties is fundamental for their effective diffusion. These Attitudes must be fully understood and channelled to the right direction (e.g., through relevant promotional activities), in order to improve the espousal of organic foods, thus paving the way for these foodstuffs to realise their full market potential. Eventually, marketers will have the assurance of future demand and sustainable profitability if the adoption of organic food is accelerated to new heights. Although this study proffered meaningful contributions, some constraints were apparent, and these hurdles inevitably affected the generalisability of the findings of this study. Owing to these limitations, the results of this study lacked external validity and thus cannot be confidently applied to other similar research contexts. On the other hand, these limitations further unlocked avenues for future research endeavours.
A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management, University of the Witwatersrand, 2022
Organic Food, Attitude-Behaviour Gap, Millennials