Food and Eating

Topics: Social class, Coffee, Starbucks Pages: 5 (1993 words) Published: October 29, 2013
146.209 Food and Eating
Assignment 2: Food and Identity

We are what we Eat - Seriously
If you can make it through a day without one cup of coffee I envy you greatly, but the reality is most of us who are either students or working class citizens survive on coffee, it is a daily practice. As an American living in New Zealand I will be using Bourdieu’s theory and his key concepts of habitus, field, and capital to examine America’s coffee drinking rituals. I will be looking closely at the way that social class influences coffee preferences and their associated meaning in relation to Starbucks and fair trade coffee. Bourdieu argues, “food and eating is much more than the process of bodily nourishment, it is an elaborate performance of gender, social class and identity” (1984, cited in Warin, Turner, Moore, & Davies, 2007: 98). Preferences in coffee, particularly whether you chose to go to Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks and further more whether you chose to pay a little extra for Fairtrade coffee or not, reproduce middle/upper class and working class identities according to Bourdieu’s theory. I will sought to prove Bourdieu’s theory and show that taste in coffee are indicators of class because trends in their consumption are interrelated with an individual’s fit in society.

I will start by looking at the background of Starbucks and who their target audience was and how they marketed themselves to this audience. First of all no matter where you are in the world, (although I have found it difficult in NZ to always find a Starbucks, part of the reason I moved to Dunedin….ok not really), you are bound to find a Starbucks with generally the same menu in one of their 15, 756 stores around the world. Starbucks can attribute this success to their marketing strategies, they have sold their coffee as a lifestyle in comparison to Dunking Donuts who have sold their brand as a fuel and their main demographic is the working class. A main component of the Starbucks identity is its logo, which is the first thing I picture when I think of Starbucks. That royal green color and the Greek mythological character of the siren all pulled together in a tidy seal of luxury. Starbucks has also created this luxury identity through language as well as the increased price and atmosphere in their cafes. According to, a Standard coffee at Starbucks ranges from a Tall for $2.95 US, Grande for $3.75, and Venti for $4.25. While at Dunkin Donuts a standard coffee ranges from a small for $1.59 US, medium for $1.79, and large for $2.09. So we can see that the prices at Starbucks are higher than those at Dunkin Donuts and therefore are not for the working class person who needs to run in grab a coffee, drink it in 10 minutes, and get back to the office. What Starbucks is selling is a lifestyle coffee, you walk in the store, they have jazz music playing, there are plenty of seats to lounge in while you enjoy your coffee and catch up with friends. You go to Starbucks to enjoy your coffee not to just fuel up.

People use brands to create and or maintain their social status and are becoming more attached to this way of identity in a world where we are becoming more detached with each other. We are using brands and consumerism to describe and identify ourselves, rather than interaction and conversation. “Starbucks sells a culture of aesthetics and coffee as a lifestyle, which aligns with Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of social status and distinction. Bourdieu contends that members of higher social classes possess the resources and opportunities to secure greater economic, social, and cultural capital than the classes beneath them.” (Contois, E., 2013).

This capital determines their development of taste and preference, as well as their desire to acquire things that are unique and show forms of self-expression. Starbucks coffee went about another way of marketing to make sure their product was distinct and would appeal to the higher social...

References: Bourdieu, P. (1986). Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (R. Nice, Trans.).London. Routledge;
Contois, E. (2013). When Theory Actually Applies: Starbucks is to Bourdieu as Dunkin’ Donuts is to Foucault. Retrieved from: starbucks-is-to-bourdieu-as-dunkin-donuts-is-to-foucault/
Hertz, N. (2001). The Silent Takeover. Global Capitalism and The Death of Democracy. London. William Heinemann
James, D. (2000). Justice and Java:Coffee in a Fair Trade Market. Received from:
Klein, N. (2000). No Logo (pp. 3-26 and pp. 325-343). London. Flamingo
Lohman, P. (2012) Culture and Identity in a Globalizing Europe. Consumer Activism: Reinforcing Moral Identity through Fair Trade Coffee. Retrieved from: identity-through-fair-trade-coffee/
Warin, M., Turner, K., Moore, V., & Davies, M. (2007). Bodies, Mothers and Identities: rethinking obesity and the BMI. Sociology of Health and Illness, 30(1), 97-11.
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