Notes from the ESRS conference (4)

One of the first concepts under what is maybe now the umbrella of Alternative Food Networks was the notion of Short Food Supply Chains where producers tried to find niches at the fringe of the consolidated agro-industrial complex to market their products differently, often with labeling or direct marketing techniques. Since these early studies, more and more variety can be seen in food networks. The question was raised during a working group, when you know if a AFN is beyond being a mere niche? And when do you know the AFN has produced regime change? Interesting questions. I had to think of the classic hour glass picture depicting the large quantity of producers and consumers versus the small amount of retailers and buying desks. Then I thought about the fact that a 100 years ago, there were all kinds of long and short food supply chains, just an enormous diversity not divided in the dichotomy of long or short and conventional versus alternative. So if we collapse the hour glass and put a time scale to it, then we may see the other end of it coming again? Just a diversity of supply chains, short, long, fair and unfair, local or hybrid, direct sales or internet, human interaction or completely without… The diversity we are now beginning to see is moving beyond the niche. Not as a single initiative but as a collective of initiatives is it much more than a niche already. A bit like the below slide maybe?