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Consumer Demand for African Food in Liverpool

Info: 5457 words (22 pages) Dissertation
Published: 11th Dec 2019

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Tags: Cultural StudiesFood and NutritionConsumer Decisions


The aim of this research is to observe and explain consumers’ preference for African food in Liverpool. By identifying the attitudes towards African food, evaluating the different factors that affect the availability and accessibility of these foods within the city, the effect of globalisation processes on food production to consumption. Three different theories have been used in this research, the Theory of Reason Action, Theory of Planned Behaviour, the Actor Network Theory and the theory of consumption. The global production network which seeks to identify the geographical spatiality involved in the network process of crossing African foods to UK. The actor-network theory is used to explain the different actors/actants in the global production network. The theories of reasoned action and theory of planned behaviour used in this research intends to explain consumer attitude, preference and behaviour towards African foods. It is however observed that African consumers tend to prefer African traditional meals but this is affected by cost, time and distance.

A combination of qualitative and quantitative research method is used to better interpret the outcomes of the result. A total of 150 respondents where interviewed from various part of the city, including students, young adults family etc. Cutting across different age groups. Owners of African food stores and restaurants were interviewed using both structured and semi-structured interview. Individuals were selected randomly, to verify interest in African foods.

Chapter 1

The importance of food as a necessity of life goes beyond physical nourishment. Anthropologist and sociologist emphasize that food practices are prime means through which social relationships are formed. (Johnston et al 2006:272). A familiar saying goes “we are what we eat”; food links us to the rituals and recipes of previous generations, creating a network between families, wider communities, and the global trading network of producers, distributors and consumers. More so, we are transported into the world of others as we experience the tastes of unknown tradition and cultures. Food choices make profound impact on the environment, health and welfare of others, challenging the ideas of tradition and identity. Travel and immigration have also resulted in the changing and shifting of traditions over the years. National identities have been created also by food traditions in distant lands among people of similar culture and background. Food is an indicator of cultural traditions, values, and how food traditions develop and evolve over space and time. Much talk of globalisation of foods have helped in shaping traditions, cultural diversity, social and political economy of places, (Bernstein et al 1990: 9, Tinker 1997: 137, 143) however, not all kinds of food are very welcomed in some places, though may not be stated categorically, it can be observed within cities and communities most probably as result of economic policies, cultural differences, international trading policies.

Traditional food is a vital aspect of the African cultural heritage. The production processing sale and distribution of food products enhances cultural and ethnic coherence in communities. Consumers demand for safe and tasteful traditional food products (Cayot, 2007). However, there is also a demand for varieties of ethnic foods in multi-ethnic cities and community.

The definition of food encompasses matters of moral and cultural significance, differentiating food products, providers and consumers (Cook et al 1996). Food has always had a long history of constructed associations which involves associations of places and people, and has been used as emblem of national, regional and local identities (Murcott 1995).

Johnston et al claim that there is no single geographical literature on food with its own coherent themes and problematic, as the study of food is found in economic, political, cultural, social and biological aspects of geography. Therefore food matter does not sit within the confinement of conceptual and spatial boundaries (Johnston 2006: 272).

Key issues surrounding topic

The speed and reach of globalisation, travel and trade, bring all kinds of diverse foods together. This has however affected the definitions of particular national food culture (Murray). The influence of travel and migration can be seen on major streets and cities in United Kingdom with a rich mixture of nationalities, Indian curry houses, Jewish Bagel shops, Chinese buffets restaurant, Italian restaurant, Mexican among others. However, the presence of African food restaurants seems not a loud as the others considering the long standing history of Blacks in the city.

The absence of physical representation of the African food culture around the city especially in everyday cultural display such as in food, as compared to the Asian presence of Chinese, Indian, Thai, Mexican cuisines and other ethnic group in Liverpool raises questions of demand and supply.

The most important representation so far is the International Slavery museum at the docks and black slave sculptures that are displayed around historical places in the city, which are only representations of past history and geography and not a total representation of the African culture in recent times.

Ethnic minority consumers’ quest for cultural identity is perceived in the food culture of the group in concern. Commercial globalisation has renewed interest in the relationship between culture and traditional norms and values (James 1890). This pursuit for identity among most migrants to the western world is pronounced in their choice of food (Bauman2000).

This research seeks to observe trends in African consumer behaviour and attitude toward African food in United Kingdom, using Liverpool as a case study. In trying to observe and evaluate these trends, certain issues have provided a background for this study, one of which is the re-materializing of postcolonial geographies as it affects Africans in a foreign country. African migrants’ attitude and food choice behaviour have been affected by certain factors, government and institutional policies of cutting across various levels of trading activities.

In determining a consumers’ preference towards food related behaviours, convenience, as a food attribute, has been described as being as important as taste, health and price (Candel, 2001). However, the availability and accessibility of food influence consumers preference as different values are considered in understanding why consumers make certain food choice. Food choice is a complex phenomenon with many interacting events determining which foods are eaten by the individual at a particular time and place. (Shepherd 1989.)

The failure of African foods to cross over into United Kingdom mainstream market has pointed to issues of production, preservation and transportation of African foods into the United Kingdom. International trade policies and barriers by OECD countries, farm subsidies have all been major setbacks to the availability of African food stuff in the United Kingdom.

Chapter 1 literature review: theories of consumer perception,

Chapter 2 how do Africans perceive African foods and other foods, what do Africans think about the origin of their food and the patriotic nature of Africans towards their food, the first experience of food, generational experience of food.

Chapter 3 methodology: theories of research methods.

Chapter 4

Chapter 5 result and discussions: background history of black Liverpool, map and population census 2001 of Africans in Liverpool, identifying African business and
Questionnaires and interview analysis,

Chapter 6 trade relations between African countries and UK


This literature review looks at the studies that have been done in areas of food preference as it concerns culture, food identity, food preference and quality. The second section will review theories employed in the research and the importance of global production networks.

Catherine Dolan and John Humphrey (2000) used Global commodity chain as networks where the decision-maker influences the output of chains and composition governance in their paper ‘governance and trade in fresh vegetables’. Their study does not recognise the identity of commodity and consumer as a factor in buyer driven commodity, evaluating the geography of space. This research explores the ethnic identity of consumer as a major actor in global commodity chain networks. The buyers themselves being of African nationality purchase food stuff from the local food store or African food restaurants which receive their supplies from importers of African foods in major cities like London and Manchester. The connection therefore is from the African farmers who grow the foods, to major exporter or importer as the case maybe, to the shelves food store and tables of the restaurant then consumed by Africans who live several miles away from their home country. The cultural identity of the consumers becomes a vital connection to the market, because consumers also make demand on the desired food choice. Consumers’ access to these foods becomes important to the continuity of this trade. Ben Fine (1993) defines commodity chains as “the commodity-specific chain connecting production, distribution, marketing and consumption and material culture surrounding these elements”, in the study of systems of provision (fine 1993:600). This approach acknowledges the importance of commodities as a possibility of more balanced treatment of the relationship between production and consumption (Crewe 2000). Studies have explored how networks of embedded firms are offering the potential for the more equitable relations between retailer and suppliers, through the sharing of knowledge as market intelligence and labour. (Crewe 1996, Scott 1996, Crewe and Beaverstock 1998). Other study have considered the creative dimension of domestic consumption, and the ways in which consumer goods are actively appropriated in the everyday spaces of the home, however, Domosh examines the reclamation of the home and the domestic space as key consumption site. But it does not take into account the origin of the commodities and how it relates to space for consumption (Domosh 1998).

Cook and Crang, explore ways in which geographical knowledge about products invoke a “double commodity fetishism”. This is the idea in which consumer knowledge are limited by spatially distanciated systems of provision. (Laying emphasis on geographical knowledge about widely sources of food commodities and process through which food is supplied). This work highlights cultural means of places and spaces. Cook and Crang (1996), further explores the global extensive networks and flows of food, people and culinary knowledge embedded in cosmopolitan London. Suggesting that “cultural mosaic” (Friedman, 1994), conceptualise cultural geographies as bounded cultural regions where constructed associations between food, places and peoples, associations epitomising the conceptions of national, regional and local cuisines. Also describes food as emblems and markers of national, regional and local identities (Murcott 1995).

Cook et al (1998), in seeking the articulation of the geographies of culture looks at how figure displacement can be used to suggest process of food consumption are cast as local, the connections of food consumption to networks, which extend beyond delimiting boundaries of particular places. Again, in a closely related study, Cook reflects on the biography and geographies of food. A definition of food as having their own biographies, studies the connection of consumer knowledge about the geographical origins of the food they consume and what roles it plays in food choice and consumption (Cook et al 1998). He concludes in a suggestion that knowledge can potentially be a significant factor in food choice and preference.

Much research has been done on Caribbean foods within and outside United Kingdom, probably due to the influx of Caribbean foods into United Kingdom market in the mid 1990’s, when it became the ethnic cuisine to go mainstream after the Chinese, Indian and Tex Mex (Cook et al 2003). The complex history of the Caribbean’s produced a regional cuisine which had overlapped with the Indian and Chinese foods that were on top of international cuisines in the United Kingdom. The region had also become tourist centres to Europeans and a large interest of the Caribbean lifestyle and delicacies reflected on the shelves of UK supermarkets, in addition to the projected images by celebrity chefs, and companies who increased the exports to satisfy the demand of this market in the mid nineties (Cook et al 2003). This also reflected in Caribbean centres established in major cities and streets in the UK.

Cook and Harrison examine debate over the failure of Caribbean food to cross over into the UK mainstream. The paper review mosaic and theories of culture as fundamental difference between a white “mainstream” and black “ethnic other” as part problems of this failure. (Cook and Harrison 2003). Understandings of postcolonial geographies of material culture and its contributions to the undermining of, and resistance to forms of colonial dominations that persist in contemporary global capitalist relationships as can be found in food trade relations between the ‘third world’ and the ‘west’. The study uses the example of the corporate history of Grace, Kennedy and Co, a company that preferred to cater for the needs of UK ethnic minority and the third world consumers, instead of prioritising cross over in to UK mainstream market.

Friedberg research of modern historical geography of food in Burkina Faso shows how agricultural policies, dietary preferences health concerns, helped to transform regional diet, landscape and economy, resulting to temporal and spatial patterns of daily life in Burkina Faso. The study observes the incorporation of Burkina Faso into the globalised market economy as a result of luxury food (French beans), not leaving out the expectation of food quality safety standards (Friedberg 2003). The study also observes the changing geographies of the meaning of food, suggesting how historical study of food consumption takes place outside formal market economy.

Gaps in current research

Studies on firms by management oriented researchers have been focused more on companies in developed economies, central and Eastern Europe, small and local food production firms in Africa and their business counterparts even in developed economies have received less attention in the study of economic development. Past researches remained outside social science mainstream therefore have not been influenced by general discourses especially in the field of economic geography. Feminist researchers who have done research in the developing world have only concentrated on gender-related issues in the developing nations rather than with broader questions of small, local and industrial organisations and economic development (Henderson et al 2002:437).

The major issues of trade liberalization have affected the cross over of African food and with the increase of safety standard procedures by the UK govt.
The challenges of small business and the cost of food as also other major issues that will be discussed.

In examining the geographical knowledge about food, actors associated with food, which involves location and situatedness of food, the networks and flows of food and people are major debates around the accessibility of these foods. According to Cook et al the long-running history of interconnections between people and places; and the increasing consciousness of the compression of the economic, political, cultural world, and the production of the world as a single place are two major contentions of globalisation debates (Cook et al 1996). London is said to be promoted as a space of ‘global post-modern’ (Hall, 1991: 32) by the staging and reconstruction of cultural difference in ‘globalisation diversity’ (Pieterse, 1995:45 as cited Cook 1996), arguably, Liverpool being proclaimed as the ‘world in one city’ though with characteristic history of local culture is yet to produce a matching representation of modern diversity of the African culture with the exception of the International Slavery museum. Post colonial issues around African cultural heritage in Liverpool will enhance globalisation diversity as represented in food, arts and cultural of the African food biography and origin.

Global Production networks

Global production networks emphasize the need to refocus attention on the social circumstances under which commodities are produced and consumed” (Dickens et al 2002 pg 444). It takes into account, the process of production-(can be from the farm stage, harvest, labour technology, processing in Africa, transportation, UK standardization, repackaging, supply and distribution,) which do not always follow a chain link but a complex network process, over time and space and distance to consumption. The GPN framework allows for a greater complexity and geographical variation in producer-consumer relation, this in turn enhances the ability to reveal how certain key knowledge ‘circulate’ between producers, consumers and intermediaries. It also reveals complex social geographies as agents located in different places can be seen to combine to influence the production process (Henderson et al 2002:445).

In all, this research seeks to answer the following questions:

• Research Questions?

To what extent does the demand of African food affect its availability?
What impact does African food trade make on the supply of these foods?
How have African food stores and restaurants faired with migration of Africans in Liverpool?

Preference is described by Babicz-Zielinska as “a general predisposition for a particular food, independent of the eating situation, and expressed by degree of liking or disliking of the food, desired food frequency or fraction of subjects selecting the food as a response to its name”(Babicz-Zielinska 1999:139). The choice of food depends on factors that influence human behaviour, which in turn affects the rejection of some food and acceptance of others. A classification based on current food-choice models is used to explain certain attributes of food choice is made by Babicz-Zielinska (Babicz-Zielinska 1999:138)

1. Production-related factors- which could be physical and chemical properties of food, sensory attributes, functional features(labelling, availability) nutritional value; or
2. Consumer-related factors- personal features, (age, gender, psychological factors, experience, personality), physiological factors (health) or
3. Environment-related factors- economic factors (price and income), cultural factors (beliefs, social factors- social status and fashion.

Consumer-related factors and environment-related factors will be area of concern in this research. Factors of food choice survey was conducted in European Community EC countries, and it showed that quality/freshness, taste, selecting a healthy diet, price, family preferences and habits belong to the most important choice factors, (Lennernas et al 1997)

Behavioural research methodologies are usually used to ascertain the underlying factors that determine food-related behaviour, reason being that food choice and consumption are natural and integrated part of human behaviour (Mahon et al 2006:474).

The theory of reasoned action

The theory of reasoned action has received attention within the field of consumer behaviour. (Sheppard et al 1988). The theory of reasoned action studies attitude and behaviour (Ajzen & Fishbein 1980). It observes behavioural intention, attitude and subjective norm. According to Fishbein and Ajzen, a person’s behaviour is guided by the person’s attitude towards the behaviour and the subjective norm. For example, Africans tend to eat hot, spicy and tasty food, so when they find themselves away from ‘home’, they look for their regular food, or something very close to the kind of food they have been used to, the alternative in this case could mean the Caribbean cuisine which also has its origin from African foods, or the Spanish or Mexican spicy foods as found in UK. However the cost also plays a determining role in making food choice, this shall be explained in detail in later chapter.

Miller 2005 defines attitude, subjective norm, and behavioural intentions as the 3 components of the theory of reasoned action.


The sum of beliefs about a particular behaviour weighted by evaluation of these beliefs.

Subjective norms.

This looks at the influence of people in one’s social environment on his/her behavioural intentions.

Behavioural intention.

This is a function of both attitudes towards behaviour and subjective norms towards that behaviour which has been found to predict actual behaviour.

The theory of planned behaviour is adopted to explain consumer behaviour towards African food. The other alternative in this research is the British food, considering different factors that affect the choice of food. Human behaviour is explained and predicted by the theory of planned behaviour in understanding beliefs and attitudes. Ajzen et al 1986, explains that TPB is an extension of the TRA. The theory of planned behaviour was developed as a third predictor of behaviour, perceived behavioural control, (Mahon et al 2006:475). Perceived behavioural control reflects beliefs regarding the access to resources and opportunities needed to perform a behaviour (Chiou, 1998 as cited in Mahon 2006 pg 475). The availability of resources needed to engage in the behaviour such as money, time and other resources, the focal person self confidence in their ability to conduct the behaviour are two major reflections of the theory of planned behaviour.

The theory of consumer preference.

Consumers have set of preferences which are dependent upon individual tastes, education, culture and other factors, apart from the economic factor. These factors are measured for particular goods in terms of the real opportunity cost to the consumer who purchases and consumes the goods. Consumer level of satisfaction of a particular kind of food is determined by what the consumer defines as “satisfaction”. However, consumers are constrained in their choices of foods by income, accessibility of goods and also the price that the consumer is willing to pay for his food.

Consumer preferences are defined as the subjective taste as measured by utility-(where utility is the satisfaction that a consumer derives from the consumption of a good) of various bundles of goods. Preferences help consumer to prioritize bundles of goods according to the levels of utility that they give the consumer. However, these preferences are not dependent on income and prices only. The ability for a consumer to purchase certain kind of food does not always determine a consumer’s like or dislike over another food. For example, an African consumer in Liverpool can have a preference for African foods over British foods but only has the financial means to buy British meals more often. There are certain assumptions of consumers’ preference theory, which will be further looked into, the assumption of decisiveness, consistency, non-satiation, convexity.

Actor network theory.

ANT, a social theory pioneered by Michel Callon (1986), Bruno Latour (1987) and John Law (1987), conceptualize social interactions in terms of networks. This includes the material environment and human causes. The concept of ANT acknowledges the importance of both material and human factors in networks. The theory conveys the idea that the actor does not act ‘on his own’ but only under the influence of complex network of material and human influences. For example, the process involved in making African foods available is not just caused human factors, but also by production, technology, society, extended politics of trade and culture, all affecting the accessibility and availability of the foods. According to Callon (1986) materials causes as well as human actors may be determinants of the social interactions and outcomes (Callon 1986). According to Henderson 2002, ANT emphasize the relationality of object and agency in heterogeneous networks, in other words, entities in networks are shaped by and can only be understood through their relations and connectivity to other entities(Law, 1999:4 as cited in Henderson et al 2002). Again, space and distance are observed as ‘spatial fields’ and relational scopes of influence, power and connectivity (Harvey, 1969; Murdoch 1998 as cited in Henderson et al 2002).

According to Nancy Vanhouse, ANT has to approaches, ‘follow the actor’, through interviews and ethnographic research and through examining inscriptions.
Inscriptions – including texts, but also images of many sorts, databases, and the like — are central to knowledge work. Some (e.g., Latour and Woolgar, 1991; Callon, Law, and Rip, 1986) say that texts (including journal articles, conference papers and presentations, grant proposals, and patents) are among the major, if not the major, products of scientific work. Inscriptions make action at a distance possible by stabilizing work in such a way that it can travel across space and time and be combined with other work.

Texts are also central to the process of gaining credibility. They carry work to other people and institutions. They attempt to present work in such a way that its meaning and significance are irrefutable. And texts are where authors establish equivalences among problems, which Callon et al. (1986) identifies as a major strategy of enrolling others. An important part of the standard journal article or grant application, for example, is to say, in essence, “If you are interested in X (major issue) you must be interested in Y, which is the topic of the work reported/proposed here.”

References Latour, B. and Woolgar, S. (1991). Laboratory life: the construction of scientific facts, intro by Salk, J., Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press
Callon, Michel, John Law, and Arie Rip, eds. Mapping the Dynamics of Science and Technology: Sociology of Science in the Real World. London: Macmillan Press, 1986.

Actor network theory has become very helpful in understanding connections between places and space. Its insistency on non human factor in network production ……
Supply chain and bottleneck bureaucracy of the supply of food products from Africa into the UK makes it more difficult for the availability of this food. This furthermore widens the distance/gap between consumers and suppliers/retailers. The length of this chain affects….

The quality assurance schemes, production and manufacturing to retailer’s protocols and the application of quality management system and standard such as HACCP and ISO series are various ways of cutting supplies.

Bottlenecks of food quality and safety standards in food processing and distribution.

The HACCP systems are used in specific export sectors in Africa, an example is the EU quality standard for fish in Uganda is based on EU directive 91/493/EEC and on Codex Alimentarius (Trienekens et al 2008:116) covering areas of microbiology level, pesticides residues, heavy metals, effluents, Good manufacturing practices (processing stage) and HACCP (processing stage) (Ssemwanga, 2003 as cited in Trienekens et al 2008:116). Kenya adheres to UK food and safety Act of 1990, more so testing laboratories are accredited to ISO 17025; 2000 by United Kingdom Accreditation services (UKAS) (Kari 2003), the high deportation rate of this products on western markets shows the fragility of the systems. As pesticides residues are discovered in the product. Other systems used for processors and packers of fish for exports are GMP, ISO 90002. The proliferation of standards by western markets creates a barrier for the application of standards by developing countries producers. The lack of enabling environment in which infrastructure facilities are absent in African countries is also a major setback. African countries are still discovering quality and safety of food as important condition for international food trade (Trieneken et al 2008:117). Building of facilities, government structures to improve and ensure quality and safety of products are still key agenda of attention. The importance of transportation, preservation (cooled system of transport) and storage are very vital to international trade. African countries are still at the phase of establishing the right conditions to enforce food quality and safety of the other products.

According to Trieneken et al- many developing countries do not have skilled labour and laboratory facilities, this however limits good- quality management, making difficult. Small and medium size business, from developing countries find difficult or almost impossible to comply with standard required in western markets (Dinham, 2003, Unnevehr, 2002). Due to barriers created by SPS and TBT in exporting foods, from developing countries do not have the adequate information and most likely unaware of specific demand of western standards for trade. The heterogeneous standard in developed economies also poses a problem, as continues differ to country and market also differ. The cost of certification is too much for develop countries to bear.

Most African food products are unable to adapt to the rigorous requirements of modern supply chain, either through scale enterprise or lack of knowledge or financial constraints, become non-competitive. The myriad of innovations and development has made the process of food supply chain increase in productivity.

The combine technology of accurate weighing, refrigeration controlled atmospheric bacterial growth inhibition, pasteurisation, micro-element pollutant detection, bar-coding, electronic recognition of packaging, the use of stabilizers etc, has also contributed to the difficulty in having African food cross over, as most business may not be financially equipped enough for the volume of the trading.

Christopher (1999) notes that the supply chain management evolves around the partnership developed in the chain and is supported by information technology applications that co-ordinate information dissemination and sharing amongst the chain members.

This research has revealed that most home cooked food are prepared under high hygienic conditions, as cooking is monitored by consumer themselves problems with calories consumptions that affect the health of consumer is also under check, compared to the perceptions about eating fast food at convenience KFC and MacDonalds. This is one reason for the preference of African food among black consumer.

One of the major problems of availability of African foods in UK is the problem of access into the country. Developing countries especially in Africa find it difficult to meet the food safety standards imposed by the UK/developing countries. Food safety standards which were originally set up to keep food for quality and safe consumption, by government of different countries are being used as trade impeding protectionist tools.(Jongwanich 2009:1). Food safety standards are usually to the disadvantage of developing countries, due to their limits capacity to access and use technology and information. International trade negotiations have experience setbacks for developing countries in recent years due to a demand for more stringent SPS in developed countries, which is as a result of increase in health consciousness and rising incomes. Before now, tariffs and quantitative restrictions are the trade barriers and impediments that affect export from developing countries to developed countries, but in recent times, food safety standards have become tool for protectionist to block trade(Jongwanich 2009:

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