Topic: Gastronomy, craft beer and policy – regional development perspectives
During the last decades, gastronomy and small scale artisan food production has successively become elevated in terms of its capacity to provide a platform for regional development dimensions. One of the gastronomic subsectors which has shown the quickest growth is the production of craft beer. Since its symbolic starting point at the Great American Beer Festival in 1982, the sector has since grown immensely. In the US, only 44 breweries existed in 1980, whereas today the craft beer sector alone includes over 4000 brewers. In Sweden, the development has been similar, with only around 20 breweries in total in 1990, whereas small scale breweries alone represent almost 200 producers.
This study has its focus on gastronomy, and particularly craft beer, and how the sector is perceived and supported from a regional development perspective. It is done so by investigating the highly rural northern Swedish region Jämtland, which has been successful in terms of small scale gastronomy businesses, also being one of the national leaders in craft beer.
With earlier studies showing that traditional and gastronomy businesses often differ in character, this study aims to further clarify in what ways they are different and have different needs. The purpose is also to investigate how the sector is perceived from a policy perspective. This together provides the foundation for contributing with theoretical and practical aspects on how to support the sectors development.
This qualitative study was undertaken in Jämtland during a time period of three years. The data contains over 25 interviews with small scale food producers, policy makers, and food tour operators, including the entirety of the regions 15 breweries. The data also encompasses place visits, document studies, seminars, as well as formal and informal conversations.
Conclusions show that the producers view the support mechanisms as requiring a deeper understanding of the meaning of running a rural craft food business, which to them means that values come from dimensions beyond pure profit making. Among policy makers, the gastronomy and craft beer sector is troublesome to support since it deviates from the ordinary paths on supporting development. Also, the different organizations working with gastronomy development could benefit from closer relations and networks amongst each other in order to be more efficient in contributing to the regional development potential of the gastronomy sector.