Alternative Food Systems: The Case of Agri-food SMEs

Imene Kellou


Talking about food sustainability, including environmental, social and economic issues concerns the whole product life-cycle (i.e., from the production to the consumption as well as transportation, distribution, waste and losses). Thereby, new forms of food supply chain have emerged over the last decade such as farmers markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), organics and Fairtrade stores, online sales. These different marketing channels are called Alternative Food Networks (AFN’s) and are considered as an alternative to conventional system (Renting et al. 2003; Ilbery and Maye 2005a; Sonnino and Marsden, 2006). It will be noted in this respect that conventional system dominated by the retail sector is characterized by products standardization, specialization and concentration of the actors, globalized procurement and buyer-driven chains (Gereffi, 1994).
Furthermore, consumers are increasingly looking for healthy and natural products and are more conscious about environmental and social issues. However, costumer’s perceptions, motivations and attitudes toward local, organics and fair trade products are ambiguous. Several studies assessing consumer perceptions and attitudes about food highlight the importance of a multidimensional approach of quality (i.e., environmental, health, taste, quality (Codron et al. 2006). Other studies have showed that consumer perceptions about food miles are unclear and the distance could be perceived positively and negatively by consumers (Siriex et al. 2008; Zapeda and Deal, 2009).
In this context, the main objective of the AFN’s is rethinking the market and non-market relationships between producers and consumers (Winter, 2003; Goodman, 2003; Kirwan, 2006; Sage, 2003). They address questions about the redefinition of governance processes and social relations in the food supply chains (Watts et al. 2005).

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ISSN 2194-511X


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