Rural images and meanings: how is the promotion of
traditional local foods in gourmet specialty stores
conveying rural culture and territories?
Teresa Forte1 and Elisabete Figueiredo2
1 Departament of Social, Political and Territorial Sciences, University of Aveiro,
2 Departament of Social, Political and Territorial Sciences and GOVCOPP, University of Aveiro,
Area: (In)Sustentabilidade dos territórios
The increase number of urban venues selling rural and locally produced foods is at par with
an emerging interest of consumers in those products as opposed to more massified and
industrial ones. This shift appears to partake a new form of rural urban relationship in which
gourmet specialty stores may have a paramount role since they not only sell the actual
products but are also showcases of specific territories, production processes and “savoir-
faire” embedded in local, regional and cultural identities (Béssiere, 1998; 2013; Figueiredo,
2020). The exploration of the symbolic elements of the rural travelling this chain of producers,
retailers, distributors and consumers may provide some cues about rural representations as
well as about the role of these products and processes in the valorization and sustainable
development of rural communities.
The present study aims to explore the ways in which the production to consumption
processes of traditional foodstuffs are portrayed, with special focus on the territories in which
This study was elaborated in the ambit of STRINGS - Selling The Rural IN (urban) Gourmet Stores – establishing
new liaisons between town and country through the sale and consumption of rural products (PTDC/GES-
OUT/29281/2017/ POCI-01-0145-FEDER-029281), a 3 year research project. STRINGS is funded by the POCI -
Programa Operacional Competitividade e Internacionalização (COMPETE 2020, FEDER) and by Fundação para a
Ciência e Tecnologia, I.P. (FCT, IP). https://www.stringsproject.pt/
they are produced and/or prepared. Therefore, the study aims at contributing to a deeper
understanding of the image of the rural traditional food products commercialized by urban
stores, in order to unveil the connections with rural territories and its characteristics.
In order to achieve that aim, a set of diversified materials used in the promotion of these
products by specialty or 'gourmet' stores were analyzed. Documents analysed include
promotional materials (brochures, cards and websites) as well as social media posts
(Instagram and Facebook) of a sample of 30 specialty gourmet stores located in Aveiro (n= 5);
Porto (n= 13) and Lisbon (n= 12). The materials, created by the store and/or by producers or
distributors, were physically collected in visits to the stores. The social media posts and
websites information were systematically and manually collected directly from each store
online page, when available. Overall, 3303 images and 2783 texts from promotional
materials (n=12); Websites (n=1041); Facebook posts (n=1847) and Instagram posts (n= 1389)
were subjected to a content analysis using NVivo 12 software, using a coding scheme built
upon the literature review and empirical analysis.
Overall, and regardless of the media used, results show that the products’ promotion draws
heavily on their geographical origins, meaning that provenance matters when
commercializing and consuming specialty foodstuffs. Besides objective and spatial references
using maps, there is a special emphasis on biophysical properties of the territories and their
impact on the quality of the products. This is particularly evident with the exaltations of
certain “terroirs” as exceptional for high quality wine and olive oil or specific regions with
traditional animal races and husbandry practices. In this regard, the local producer is
frequently mentioned evoking a certain proximity, which is also very common in the case of
cheese, cold/cooked meats and honey/jams where the producer and its traditional and
artisanal way of making the product is clearly put in evidence. The impact of the production
of these local foodstuffs in rural development occurs mainly in materials alluding to producers
or stores that openly embrace an ecological and sustainable mission.
Keywords: traditional and local foods; gourmet specialty stores; promotional materials and
social media; content analysis; rural territories.
Teresa Forte is a researcher of the project STRINGS - Selling The Rural IN (urban) Gourmet
Stores – establishing new liaisons between town and country through the sale and
consumption of rural products at the Department of Social, Political and Territorial Sciences
(DCSPT) of the University of Aveiro, Portugal. She holds a European PhD in the area of Social
Psychology and Communication from the Faculty of Medicine and Psychology of “La
Sapienza” University of Rome, Italy.
Elisabete Figueiredo is a sociologist and an associate professor with habilitation at the
Department of Social, Political and Territorial Sciences (DCSPT) as well as a full researcher at
GOVCOPP – Research Unit on Governance, Competitiveness and Public Policies, University of
Aveiro. She is the coordinator of the research project: STRINGS - Selling The Rural IN (urban)
Gourmet Stores – establishing new liaisons between town and country through the sale and
consumption of rural products.
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