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Countercultural convenience: access to ‘alternative' food system quality attributes online
Despite the growth of Alternative Food System (AFS) manifestations such as farmers' markets and consumer food co-operatives, evidence exists to suggest these provisioning systems remain the preserve of relatively affluent consumers. At the same time, the growing popularity of internet enabled e-commerce is resulting in fundamental changes to many markets, including claims that there is a structural shift by consumers away from mass marketed products towards niche markets, such as those which characterise AFS. This paper explores these issues and offers new insight into how e-commerce, as a transformative innovation, might attract more resource constrained consumers to AFS while also retaining the quality conventions which currently mark AFS as ‘alternative'.
To demonstrate this possibility, a new theoretical model is advanced which incorporates both the language of AFS, as well as the neoliberal language of firm level strategy as it relates to e-commerce and niche markets. This capacity stems from a novel integration of Michael Porter's theory of generic strategy, the product lifecycle theory and French conventions theory. The latter is particularly useful as a tool for highlighting differences in production systems based upon different consumer and producer quality conventions.
Empirical data from a survey of 375 consumers who regularly acquired food through either ecommerce or non e-commerce mediated AFS is also presented. This data is useful for testing the validity of the proposed theoretical model.
In conclusion, this paper addresses how e-commerce is altering consumer access to AFS, including in ways which have a neoliberalising influence on ‘alternative' quality attributes.
Publication titleXXVI ESRS Congress Book of Abstracts: Places of Possibility? Rural Societies in a Neoliberal World
PublisherJames Hutton Institute
Place of publicationUnited Kingdom
Event titleXXVI European Society for Rural Sociology Congress
Event VenueAberdeen, Scotland
Date of Event (Start Date)2015-08-18
Date of Event (End Date)2015-08-21