Do you purchase or consume organic food? If yes, how did you first adopted a green organic lifestyle?
I have been purchasing organic food since it became widely introduced to the market. I’ve had two friends who are avid supporters of the healthy lifestyle. One of them is also an environmental activist, so I was regularly debriefed on all topics connected to health, the environmental impact, the chemical structure of different foods, the controversy over GMOs, and the political aspect of the question. I’ve never specifically searched for organic products, but decided to buy them when they’ve become readily available.
How often do you purchase or consume organic food? Where do you purchase it?
I do not buy it regularly. I think I buy conventional food more often. The organic produce usually tastes better and is claimed to contain harmful chemicals in smaller amounts, but it is far more expensive, and the closest shop I can buy it is situated much further. If I, like my friends, were more determined, it wouldn’t stop me, but I usually buy it as a treat, not as a part of my agenda, so I only walk to the shop when I feel like it. One of my friends buys his vegetables from the grocery market somewhere on the outskirts of Hong Kong, but for me, such distance is too much, even though he claims the produce there is superior to that in my organic shop.
What do you think of the organic food trend (acceptance/preference) in HK? Do you agree that there is a trend of rising demand but a limited supply of organic food products in HK?
I think the trend is visible. I also think it is gradually growing and has already become of sufficient magnitude to support the big sellers of organic food, like organic store chains. As for the limited supply and growing demand, I am not so sure. It is hard to judge from my viewpoint, but it looks like the devoted followers were getting their organic products before the trend has emerged, and did not have a problem with it. I think that the trend, at least in part, is due to advertising by the same people who create the supply, so it will probably catch up with the demand.
Do you believe organic food consumption in HK strongly related to an individual’s healthy mentally, emotionally, and physically (related to health consciousness/higher nutrition)?
Only partially. Some individuals buy organic food because of health concerns. These are the same people who exercise regularly and actively maintain a healthy lifestyle. However, I am sure at least two other types exist. First, some people just follow the trend. They prefer the easy and effortless ways of being healthy, like paying more money for the product that they’d heard is beneficial for them. I’d say I am closer to this type myself. Finally, some people pay attention to health but ignore organic foods. So I think the trend is only partially grounded in a healthy mentality, with other motives such as following a fashionable behavior or seeking an easy solution to their troubles.
Do you think organic food consumption in HK is deemed to be environmentally friendly?
I usually hear that organic food is more healthy as it contains more nutrients as well as fewer harmful chemicals, so I think it’s what drives people to buy it. Most people also claim that it tastes better, but I’ve seen a TV show where most people were unable to distinguish between organic and non-organic products based only on taste, so I think it’s just wishful thinking. Only one of my friends cites environmental issues and animal friendliness as reasons. The press and TV also rarely highlight these topics, so I think only a small percentage of people buy it because they care about the environment.
Where would you say Hong Kong food markets stand about the greater organic movement in HK and the world?
The media usually cites Europe as the leader in organic food production and consumption. America has equally developed infrastructure dedicated to it. So a few years before I’d say we’re lagging. Now with the organic food chains emerging and, more importantly, raising awareness of the public, I think we have advanced significantly, though, of course, there is still much to be done.
Does organic food trend (change in food preference) mean a change sociologically?
Absolutely. It is not going to be radical or uniform, but sooner or later the issues implied by organic trend will become more apparent and publicized. This will lead to the raising of awareness on such topics as sustainable agriculture, efficient ways of resource management, preservation of wildlife, climate changes, and the control of anthropogenic global warming. Again, this will not happen globally, as only a minority of the population engages in such topics, but this is not the first time the trend, even the profit-oriented one, has achieved positive social results.
Do you agree the price differential between organic and conventional food products reflects organic food perceived to be premium higher quality products?
Yes and no. I can say for sure that organic agriculture is more expensive than conventional one. Unfortunately, this has drawn some criticism, as the more expenses are involved, the fewer reasons it has to be called sustainable. Arguably, when it becomes an established practice, it will also become cheaper. At the same time, there is no doubt that part of the price is due to the air of superiority and luxury it conveys. So, yes – the higher quality of organic products is the reason for a price difference – but not for all of it.
What do you think about the correlation between organic food preference and sociological class/price acceptance/income?
I can say with all certainty: organic food is a choice of the higher class, at least for now. People with lower income still look at it as an expensive indulgence, especially with all the controversy surrounding it, like the reports that there is no real difference in taste or even sustainability. After all, the conventional food is not of lower quality – it just has a lower reputation.
- Grassroots movement, health concerns;
- Negative: inconvenient, expensive, remote;
- Growing trend, no shortage;
- Health concerns, the following trend;
- Health over the environment;
- Developing but not developed;
- Positive: raising awareness;
- Expensive process, luxury;
- Reserved for upper class.