Tag Archives: Ethical Food

Organic vs. local? New article in Canadian Food Studies

Photo of purple cauliflower. By Suzie's Farm on Flickr Creative Commons.

Photo by Suzie’s Farm: https://flic.kr/p/e9ouDX

Who buys organic food, and who prioritizes local food?

We provide some insights on this question in a new article published by Canadian Food Studies. The article, authored by Shyon Baumann, Athena Engmann, Emily Huddart-Kennedy and me, is based on a survey of food shoppers in Toronto. Here are a few of our key findings:

  • The intention to buy organic food tends to be associated with parents who have children under the age of five. Health and taste concerns are top of mind in informing their purchases.
  • The intention to buy local food tends to be associated with educated, white women consumers. For these shoppers, collectivist concerns like the environment and supporting the local economy are a key motivator.
  • We argue that the predominant ‘individualist’ vs. ‘collectivist’ framing in the scholarly literature should be reformulated to accommodate an intermediate motivation.
    • Organic food consumption is often motivated by a desire to consume for others (e.g. children) in ways that aren’t straightforwardly individualist or collectivist, but that instead exemplify a caring motivation that falls somewhere between the two.
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Can consumers buy alternative foods at a big box supermarket?

Supermarket

Photo credit: plasticchef1 on Flickr Creative Commons

A commentary I published in the Journal of Marketing Management, “Can consumers buy alternative foods at a big box supermarket?”, is now available online (and free for the month of May). It’s part of a special issue that considers the question of “alternatives” in food and drink markets (Eds. J Smith Maguire, J Lang and D Watson). I use a case study of ethical meat to consider the diverse, often contradictory ideals that inform consumers’ search for alternatives to mainstream market options.

I propose three main takeaways. 1) The goal of producing  consumer alternatives is significantly hampered by the competing, and often contradictory demands of market forces. 2) The discourse of food alternatives uses a ‘win-win’ logic suggesting that consumers don’t have to sacrifice anything or change their habits. I believe that consumer projects for ecological and social change face a necessary but exceptionally challenging task of reshaping, and even downgrading consumer expectations. 3) Although I’m deeply sympathetic to the desire to “feel good” about shopping, the search for eco-social alternatives cannot simply make consumers feel good about their purchases. Food ‘alternatives’ have to go beyond feel good feelings, and address the material realities and limitations of niche markets.