Women’s demands for OSPs are growing with the expectations for their safety for body. However, it is hard for consumers to verify whether a given product was produced according to the promised characteristics [9, 19] because organic products are representative credence goods. In organic markets, consumers generally rely on information provided by producers, sellers, or independent third parties [10, 20]. Because OSPs, as credence goods, also have properties of asymmetric information, information signaling such as through certification logos and detailed labels on product packaging, as well as advertisements in OSP markets, are important tools that a woman can use to evaluate product quality by converting credence characteristics into search attributes. Therefore, a clear understanding of women’s attitudes toward these informants and their impact on purchasing is important. In this study, women showed a fairly high level of trust in the informants, which were evaluated to have had a positive effect on the product’s reliability, image, and purchase decision. Women have favorable attitudes toward the informants in terms of safety for their health. In addition, it was found that positive attitudes regarding the informants have a relationship with actual OSP purchasing behavior.
This study showed that the sociodemographic characteristics, including age, education background, and residential area, were not significantly different among the three purchase frequency groups. These results are similar to those of previous studies on organic foods [21, 22]. Because the respondents answered that they most expected safety for human health when purchasing OSPs, this result suggests that sociodemographic factors, as in the case of food, may not have a greater impact on consumer purchasing behavior than health concerns. Although respondent incomes were not collected in this study, it is unlikely to have a significant impact on the results, as most previous studies have found that income is not a significant variable in explaining differences in purchasing behavior between buyers and non-buyers of organic products .
The respondents in this study showed generally positive attitudes toward the OSP certification logos, labels on the product packaging, and advertisements. The results indicate that women trust those informants, and the informants had positive effects on women’s decisions about the product’s reliability and image, and even on their purchasing behavior. In the credence market, third-party certification or a provision of information via labels or advertisements could be an instrument to gain consumer trust . By this means, customers can be informed of the details of product characteristics through the label on the packaging [25, 26], and has been recognized that the more healthful information that consumers find on the label, the more favorable they become and the more positive their buying decisions become [14, 20, 27]. Certification logos are used to signal consumers at the point of sale that a product is certified. Consumers believe that a certification logo is a proof that the product has satisfied the specific requirements of the given certification, which is controlled by standard regulations, upheld by independent private organizations or governments . Thus, consumers tend to trust certified logos more than statements written by the source company on the product . The effects of the certification logos have been well documented in previous studies on organic food. Toschi et al. reported the presence of the labeling effect; in their experiment, a conventional yogurt with the same odor, taste, and textures as an organic yogurt is evaluated significantly higher when labeled as organic than when it is unlabeled, and vice-versa .
In this study, the respondents indicated that the most expected aspect when purchasing an OSP and the aspect that the informants contribute the most to the belief in and impression of the product is safety for human health. However, it is interesting that OSP certification logos, labels, and the word “organic,” used in advertisements, do not guarantee that the product is healthier or that it is free from hazardous ingredients [29,30,31]. It has not been proven that OSPs are healthier than conventional disposable sanitary pads. This implies that consumers’ beliefs regarding certification logos, labels, and advertisements that emphasize the organic nature of the product outweigh the ambiguity as to whether OSPs are safe. Similarly, one previous study on organic foods reported that the term “organic” carries positive connotations for food, so it can be assumed to feature a heuristic cue or an indicator of perception .
Furthermore, this study found that the degree of women’s positive attitude was closely linked to their purchasing behavior. The attitude toward the OSP informants has become more positive going from non-buyers to occasional buyers to habitual buyers. These results suggest that in the OSP market, not only whether women have a positive attitude toward an informant but also the degree of positivity is important. This finding is in line with several previous studies that have found that negative attitudes attributed to uncertainty and lack of trust in organic food logos can act as barriers to purchasing organic food [33,34,35,36].
There are some limitations in our study. First, the respondent group was slightly biased toward better educated respondents (about 80% have a degree above college education). This may be attributed to the use of an electronic survey method. Second, this study only focused on OSPs because we observed that, as with previous studies, the most used menstrual hygiene products were disposable menstrual pads, due to their convenience and easiness of discarding [1, 37, 38]. Therefore, women’s attitudes on other kinds of alternatives such as tampons, menstrual cups, cloth menstrual pads should be examined in future studies. Last, caution is required before applying these findings to other countries, as attitudes toward OSPs and their certification logos, labels, and advertisements can vary by social and cultural characteristics.
Despite these limitations, the findings of this study are valuable because, to the best of our knowledge, there has been no previous study that has evaluated women’s attitudes toward OSP certified logos, labels, or advertisements in combination with purchasing behavior. Therefore, although this study was conducted in Korea, it can be used as basic data to understand women’s attitudes toward OSP informants in other countries where the demand for OSP is also increasing.