Once you buy organic milk, you don't go back, a new study shows

Jillian Kramer
September 26, 2017

Once you go organic milk, you don't go back. At least, that's the finding of a study that shows that buying organic milk is the gateway for buying organic everything.

Aarhus University researchers analyzed the daily shopping habits of nearly 10,000 households over a 20-month period of time, and discovered that those who buy their first organic milk in a grocery store are very unlikely to return to non-organic milk. What's more, the researchers found, purchasing organic milk also increases the number of other organic food products grocery shoppers purchase at the store.

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"In connection with organic consumption, there has previously been talk of an 'organic staircase' in the sense that consumers are generally buying certain organic products before others," researcher John Thøgersen said in a statement. "But our research shows that in fact we're dealing with an escalator where the upwards movement is taking place automatically. Once you've purchased your first organic product, you're not likely to stop. You'll continue and over time, you'll increase your organic shopping list. You'll even be following a predictable consumption pattern."

Here's how that pattern works, the researchers say: you'll start with organic milk and other organic dairy products, then graduate to organic vegetables, eggs, and baking ingredients, until everything in your cart that can be organic will be organic.

"What's interesting is that something is making the organic consumers stick to their guns," said Thøgersen. Unfortunately, Thøgersen admits, the research doesn't shed any light as to why consumers purchase organic milk first and escalate their organic obsession from there, but he hazards a guess it has something to do with our morals.

"It becomes a way in which we define ourselves," Thøgersen explained. "As a result, we build an identity around the notion of buying organic products, and we're highly unlikely to suddenly change our moral values," so we stock our fridges organically.

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