Buying into the food system: Trends in food retailing in the US and implications for local foods

Amy Guptill, Jennifer L. Wilkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


The contemporary US food system is characterized by both an unprecedented concentration of corporate control as well as a fragmentation of sourcing and marketing processes, introducing both new constraints and new opportunities for more localized food systems. The purpose of our study is to explore these issues by investigating three key questions. First, what are the key trends in the US grocery industry? Second, how do different kinds of food outlets choose, procure, and promote food products? Finally, what are the implications of recent trends in the food retailing process for strengthening local flows of the production, distribution, and consumption of food? Background information on the grocery industry and the results of seven open-ended interviews conducted with owners and managers of grocery stores in one upstate New York county indicate that the retailing process differs in complex ways from store to store and in most aspects cannot be inferred from store type. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of our findings for local food system efforts, specifically in terms of new collaborations among producers, distributors, retailers, and shoppers, who play an indispensable role in developing viable alternatives to increasing corporate control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-51
Number of pages13
JournalAgriculture and Human Values
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002


  • Food retail
  • Food system
  • Grocery stores
  • Local foods
  • Packaged goods industry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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