Topic: Selling the Rural in Urban Specialty Stores – Establishing new liaisons between town and country through the sale of rural provenance food products in Portugal
Keywords: rural provenance food products; rural-urban connections; specialty stores; selling rural provenance food products in urban stores.
The aim of this contribution is to present a recently started research project1 that seeks to contribute to the understanding of the role of urban specialty stores selling rural provenance food products in fostering new or renewed rural-urban liaisons. Like in other European countries, there is growing evidence on the increasing number of this type of stores in Portuguese urban areas. This evidence – alongside with the growing interest of Portuguese and foreigner consumers on traditional (officially certified or not) rural food products from Portuguese rural areas – seems to unveil the potential contribution of specialty urban located stores in closing the long lasting gap between rural and urban areas in Portugal. At the same time, a potential contribution to foster agricultural activities through the valorisation of local productions, as well as to promote rural attractiveness can be foreseen. These aspects may also induce a larger economic diversification of rural areas and foster sustainable development of rural communities. Despite these potential contributions, little evidence has been produced on the central role that (urban) retailers may play in the process of valorisation of rural provenance products. In fact, scarce research has been conducted until now on the motivations of retailers, the type of products they sell, the provenance and promotion of products, as well as on the links they have with rural territories and small farmers. In commercializing traditional local foods, generally of higher quality and presenting unique characteristics specialty stores offer a ‘piece of the countryside’, a piece of specific ‘terroirs’, a piece of local (sometimes regional and/or national) cultural identity and a particular vision of the world and know-how. Consumers of such traditional and differentiated food products value their authenticity and this attribute is largely socially constructed, meaning that it is not only inherent to the products character, characteristics and places of origin, but also constructed through the perceptions of the producers, retailers, distributors and consumers themselves. Based on an exploratory analysis of selected cases, our aim is to illustrate and (mainly) debate the multi-level approach of the project and its contribution to produce innovative knowledge to improve food chains of production, commercialization and consumption unveiling new opportunities for rural development.
1 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), funded by Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) and co-funded by COMPETE 2020, Portugal 2020 and FEDER) (started in October 2018) https://www.stringsproject.pt/