9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN05 Sociology of Consumption

2009-09-04 09:00:00 2009-09-04 10:30:00 Friday, 4 September 09:00 - 10:30 Contested Foods Building II, C5.01

Semantic of naturalness - re-assuring consumers of a risky food production

Nutrition in the Western world appears as an unproblematic matter in everyday life. Its existential meaning is almost forgotten. But currently nutrition becomes an eminent topic again, when the consequences of industrial production of foodstuff make the headlines. Irritated by nutritional debates and the demands of the clientèle of eating-out organizations, the so-called large scale consumers are also under pressure. Hereby specific expectations seem to be the options for solutions in eating-out organizations; for example the use of organic, regional and otherwise specified foodstuffs that promise security. The implementation process of these kinds of products have not only manifold consequences for organizational routines but as well as the relationship between the organization and its clientèle.
This arises the question: how can eating-out organizations urge consumers to purchase the products promising security as an irrefutable argument? By presenting empirical results of some German case studies funded by the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, it will be demonstrated that price is not the critical key factor to attract consumers, but rather the communication along terms such as nature, region, season, tradition, handcraft and social fairness. These terms refer to one another on the basis of the semantic syndrome naturalness. For example, the reference to nature and region induces a space-time limitation for the purchase of foodstuff suggesting control of danger as a reduction of risk. Furthermore this strategy promises to cause social effects for regional producers and direct sellers.
In this way the use of topics like region and nature in communication directs to security through naturalness. It represents an ontology, which is a lasting and not further contestable reference providing security. However in reality, the organizations transform danger into problems of function-specific handling of uncertainties. Therefore naturalness appears as a semantic solution of organizational problems.