Local food markets : consumer perspectives and values
Sammanfattning: There has been an increased interest for local food in Sweden, which has led to governmental plans to support and increase the Swedish local and small-scale production. Few studies have however been made to understand the motivations of the consumers who buy local food and what they perceive as being valued with these products and services in Sweden. Additionally, when studies of local food have been made in Sweden and abroad, there has been little or no regard in the way which the consumer buys local products, whether it is from a producer directly or from a regular store. Over the last three years, it has in Sweden emerged a new concept of buying local food from the producers. The online grass-root movement of REjälKOnsumtion (REKO), which can be translated as “responsible consumption” is a network of producers and consumers that sell and buy local products in local Facebook-groups. The producers advertise their products that they all will sell at a certain date and time once or every other week in the group’s online forums in which the consumers then place their orders. The consumer has the possibility to ask questions in the forums as well as when they meet. Seeing how this way of buying food are less convenient than buying at a local supermarket it is likely that these consumers find additional values associated with these services and products. The aim of the study is as such to identify the consumer’s perceived values of buying local food through local markets. To answer to the study’s aim, the study was formed as a qualitative multiple-case study, where 14 in depth interviews with consumers from three different geographical REKO-groups were held, combined with 53 shorter interviews on site of the direct-market and participant study of each REKO-group in the study. An additional interview was done with an initiator and administrator of a REKO-group, to gain insight of how one can be created and managed. By adopting the theoretical perspectives of Service Dominant Logic (SD-logic) and the ten universal values as proposed by Schwartz’s value theory, the results were analysed to understand what the perceived values of the local food and the services which was offered in these direct markets were. The results showed that the consumer valued the REKO-groups as a unique market channel, where she could receive service and value-offers that were deemed hard or unobtainable in regular stores. The producer’s skills and knowledge were furthermore valued, as the producers could provide information about how the products were made, crops grown, and animals raised. They had furthermore skills that were sought after, such as the care for animals and lands in a way that was thought to be more environmental- and or animal friendly. The products and services were perceived to be of higher quality in terms of how they were grown and produced, and the small-scale production in itself was valued. The small-scale and local was perceived to be more environmentally friendly, e.g., by the use of less transports and the consumers wished to support the local producers as well as community. The social interaction with the producers, to try new things and also to enjoy the culinary pleasure was also valued. Finally, some consumers associated the local food as being fresher and connected to the domestic food supply. An interesting area for future research would be to expand the scope of the study to a larger population, to see if there are any generalizable findings that can be made. It could also explore the demographics of the consumers, such as age, gender. Furthermore, the consumer who perceive themselves as “green” or “curious consumer” but does not buy this way could be further investigated, to understand the reasons as to why one does not buy this way.
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