Within the context of recent concerns over potential health threats from BSE, E. Coli and genetically modified organisms, food quality is of increasing importance in contemporary British society. Thus food producers, retailers and government institutions are engaged in an attempt to reassure consumers that their food is of high quality and safe to consume. Yet, the concept of 'quality' is one which is contested, constructed and represented differently by diverse actors operating within a variety of regulatory and market arenas. The aim of this paper is focus on one set of actors who interact to construct notions of quality within a niche market arena, namely small producers of regional speciality food products (SFPs) in the south west of England. It emerges that, despite new regulatory frameworks and consumer concerns, producers usually define quality in terms of product specification and attraction rather than through official certification schemes or association with region of origin. Food quality, however defined by producers, is essentially self-regulated and constructed within the context of maintaining stable relationships between producers and buyers. Furthermore, marketing is based on low-cost methods which demand a high personal input of time and energy from the entrepreneur. Quality, therefore, must be understood as a contested notion which is constructed by actors attempting to build stable and lasting networks between themselves and others within the market arena. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Copyright 2004 Elsevier Science B.V., Amsterdam. All rights reserved.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Sociology and Political Science