Veggie alternatives are promoted at the
market shelves
(Picture, Mari Niva)

A part of the diversification of eating patterns in Western societies, including Finland, is the development of ideological groups and communities with ecological considerations. These alternative patterns of eating and ecological forms of food provisioning have gained growing interest, evidenced by, e.g., the increasing social acceptability of vegetarianism and veganism, community-based food networks, and the emergence of insect production and eating in Western countries. Members of such groups are likely to problematize their eating practices from an environmental point of view and can be considered forerunners of environmentally conscious eating. Moreover, some may combine environmental concerns with pleasure pursuit, as “foodies” often do.

This sub-study analyses the ways in which emerging sustainable food consumption practices are adopted and rooted in everyday life in these groups. Adopting ideas from the lead user and innovation community approach, theories of practice, and debates on political consumption, we assess the transformative potential of groups aspiring to sustainable food consumption. From these perspectives, we ask what novel types of sustainable practices the members of various groups are developing and engaging in, and how people active in alternative consumption manage and coordinate political and more privatized functions and values of eating.

Looking at alternative food practices as forms of innovation that have transformative potential provides a fresh perspective both on lead user theory and the study of alternative food consumption. On the one hand, we analyse alternative ways of defining environmentally sustainable food consumption and framing the role of consumers and other actors in ecological transition, which might diverge from those adopted by mainstream steering instruments, such as nutrition recommendations (sub-project 1). On the other hand, we examine the systemic and cultural constraints and lock-ins thwarting the promotion of more ecologically sustainable ways of eating.

In this qualitative study we analyse various kinds of data, such as material from interviews, participatory observation, and textual material from documents (e.g., internet pages, blogs, twitter-postings, etc.).