Whole Food Consumer Research Paper

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Agric Hum Values (2011) 28:303–319
DOI 10.1007/s10460-010-9283-9

Reflexivity and the Whole Foods Market consumer: the lived experience of shopping for change
Jose´e Johnston • Michelle Szabo

Accepted: 10 June 2010 / Published online: 8 July 2010
Ó Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Abstract There has been widespread academic and popular debate about the transformative potential of consumption choices, particularly food shopping. While popular food media is optimistic about ‘‘shopping for change,’’ food scholars are more critical, drawing attention to fetishist approaches to ‘‘local’’ or ‘‘organic,’’ and suggesting the need for reflexive engagement with food politics.
We argue that reflexivity is central to understanding the potential and limitations
…show more content…
While extreme instances of consumer politicization (e.g., organizing consumer boycotts, demanding legislative change to protect consumers) have obvious political import, we believe it is equally important to investigate the meanings and motivations of ethical consumption1 in corporate spaces. The corporatized arm of ethical food consumption is of special concern to food scholars, as alternative agricultural initiatives have been materially and semiotically incorporated into corporate institutions (Fromartz 2006; Guptil 2009; Howard 2008;
Johnston et al. 2009). Despite significant theoretical work on the topic of ethical consumption (Barnett et al. 2005b;
Johnston 2008; Jubas 2007; Slocum 2004; Soper 2004,
2007) there is a paucity of empirical work examining the reflexivity and contradictions of ethical consumption in
‘‘real-life’’ market settings, particularly corporate spaces, where the majority of food shopping takes place.
As such, this paper investigates the reflexivity of consumers who shop at Whole Foods Market (WFM). WFM
(which has the motto, ‘‘Whole Foods, Whole People,
Whole Planet’’) is one of the largest corporate shopping venues articulating a discourse of ethical

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