Speciality regional foods in the UK : an investigation from the perspectives of marketing and social history
This thesis concerns an investigation of the nature and meaning of speciality regional foods in the UK, by examining the products themselves as well as the producers who bring them to the marketplace. Speciality regional food production is making an increasingly important contribution to the economy and is pertinent to newly evolving policy objectives in the agrifood and rural sectors at both national and European Union levels. In spite of this, many uncertainties exist with respect to the properties of speciality regional foods and the characteristics and behaviour of the producers of these foods. In the literature review, territorial distinctiveness in foods is identified as comprising geophysical and human facets, these being influenced over time by macro-environmental forces such as trade and industrialisation. Territorial distinctiveness is also identified as comprising a range of end product qualities perceived by consumers. In terms of speciality regional food producers, the literature review identifies that such producers tend to be small or micro-sized firms incorporating some level of hand-crafted methods in their production processes. These characteristics imply complex behavioural tendencies, particularly in relation to the propensity of these producers to be market oriented. The weight of evidence suggests that small craft-based producers have characteristics and tendencies not conducive to market oriented behaviour. In the empirical study, in-depth interviews were conducted with 20 speciality regional food producers based in the north of England, with data analysis following a grounded theory approach. In terms of the nature and meaning of speciality regional foods, it was found that interviewees expressed varying levels of conviction regarding the existence of geophysical and human facets of territorial distinctiveness in their products. Furthermore, a variety of contrasting end product qualities were described. These variations and contrasts were explained with reference to the competitive contexts of the interviewees and the social history of the products respectively. In terms of speciality regional food producers it was found that contrary to expectations, these producers displayed a combination of highly market oriented, entrepreneurial and 'craft' dispositions, with a particular tendency emerging whereby strong evidence of marketorientation and entrepreneurship was partnered with a keen-ness amongst the interviewees to portray themselves as 'craftspersons'. This tendency was explained with reference to the competitive circumstances and prevailing market conditions in which interviewees found themselves. Overall, it is concluded that speciality regional foods have meaning .at an 'essential' as well as a 'projected' level, and that both need be taken into account for regional food policy initiatives to be effective. For speciality regional food producers, it is concluded that multiple tendencies and behaviours co-exist within these producers, and that it is the producers' prioritisation between these which determines the appropriateness of current policy support mechanisms.