"But it's all true!": commercialism and commitment in the discourse of organic food promotion

Cook, Guy; Reed, Matt and Twiner, Alison (2009). "But it's all true!": commercialism and commitment in the discourse of organic food promotion. Text and Talk, 29(2) pp. 151–173.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/TEXT.2009.007


Debates over food politics provide insight into the convergence of commercial and political discourses. As the organic food market has grown, campaigners and independent producers have faced the dilemma of how far they should promote their cause using standard marketing language. We report on a research project which combined corpus analysis, interviews and focus group discussions to investigate the discourse of organic food promotion in Britain, the thinking behind it, and how people react to it. We found growing convergence across the sector. Whether produced by supermarkets, small politically committed producers, or environmentalist campaign groups, the language used tends to be poetic, vague, dialogic, narrative, and emotive, with an emphasis upon bucolic imagery and consumer self-interest. Text producers assume that consumer attitudes can be easily manipulated by such an approach. Our focus group data however suggests both a critical resistance to marketing language in general, and that attitudes to food may be less amenable to manipulation through standard promotional techniques than is commonly assumed. Our findings contribute not only to an understanding of food politics and persuasive discourse more generally, but also to the development of discourse analytic methodology which integrates textual analysis with investigation of sender and receiver perceptions.

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