The nation's green conscience may be spreading from the chattering classes to the masses, but many consumers still think that ethically produced food is over-priced and are not prepared to pay for it, according to new research.

In a survey of more than 2,500 listeners to Chrysalis, Heart, Galaxy and LBC radio stations examining consumer attitudes towards healthy eating and diet, most respondents said they would prefer to buy organic, with more than two thirds (69%) saying they believed that organic food was much better for their health.

However, 83% felt it was too expensive, while 64% said the same of fair trade.Thirty per cent said they never bought organic food and 25% bought it less than once a month. Just 18% said they bought it whenever they could.

The survey indicated that there was still a long way to go before the "greening" of the consumer conscience translated into greener shopping patterns even though the whole green agenda was clearly managing to successfully piggyback on concerns about healthy eating.

Indeed, 67% of respondents said that they had discussed healthy eating regularly with friends and family over the past year, while only 6% said it was a subject they never discussed.

Almost 70% felt they knew a lot about the issue and 45% said they regularly checked food packaging for information on ingredients, calories and fat content, with 13% saying they didn't.

Despite being held to account for the obesity problem by the government and interest groups, supermarkets and food manufacturers were seen to be providing sufficient information on healthy eating.

Consumer understanding of the health benefits of particular foods was patchy, however. Though 92% claimed they knew all about the 5-a-day campaign and 78% about the importance of wholegrain, 45% didn't understand probiotics.

Abigail Taylor, head of listener insight at Chrysalis Radio, said: "The survey shows that there's a real desire among the British to eat more healthy food, but there's a cost barrier across regions, age and gender."