Recently there has been more focus on food in general and local food in particular. But what is local food? And what are the perceptions of this concept according to theory and to providers and consumers of local food? This article first summarises and compares three different theoretical perspectives on local food, namely experience economy, local food systems and what is termed pro-industrialism. These have differing and sometimes opposite conceptualisations and aims for the concept of local food. Using the perspective of experience economy as theoretical background, the concept of local food as expressed by a group of Danish providers and consumers is empirically investigated through interviews, observation and surveys. From this, qualitative and quantitative data are generated, the analysis of which shows how varied perceptions of local food are. The elements of which the perceptions consist are identified and then categorised according to whether they pertain to the food product itself or the production methods and facilities and whether they describe physical or social properties of local food. From this a model with four categories is developed. It is found that properties of the product are more frequently mentioned than properties of the production process. Providers emphasise social properties of the product more often than consumers, and consumers emphasise physical properties of the product more often than providers. Inversely, providers emphasise physical properties of production more than consumers, who emphasise social properties of production more than providers. Experience marketing and events may create diffusion of a local food concept, but only when communication is massive and long-lasting. So far this has not been the case, hence there is no agreement in either theory or among the providers and consumers studied on what local food is. However, this may change in time.
Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica. Section B. Soil and Plant Science, 2013, Vol 63, Issue SI, p. 66-77