University Of Tasmania

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Countercultural convenience: access to ‘alternative' food system quality attributes online

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-23, 18:30 authored by Wills, B

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 title

XXVI ESRS Congress Book of Abstracts: Places of Possibility? Rural Societies in a Neoliberal World






James Hutton Institute

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Event title

XXVI European Society for Rural Sociology Congress

Event Venue

Aberdeen, Scotland

Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Supply and demand