The nascent project explores the potential for development of entrepreneurial initiatives for a sustainable transformation of the food sector. It examines how these new, transformative business forms can be characterised and how their role can be estimated in the food sector. The transdisciplinary research is carried out by ZIRIUS in association with the University of Oldenburg, the Munich-based Anstiftung foundation and 29 practical and transfer projects. Together, we see business forms as transformative if they (a) stand for quality in terms of a broadly sustainable food and nutrition culture and (b) have the potential to displace non-sustainable forms of the food industry.
The sociological sub-project looks at the motives, success conditions and action strategies of the different food companies and compares them with the expectations and aims of their customers and stakeholders. It shows in which way the initiatives contribute to social transformative innovations and renewals and how they prepare the ground for new forms of nutrition in economic, organisational and symbolic terms. A study of marketing in the mainstream area and the media reflects how strongly the concepts are picked up on here, but are also incorporated into the existing system constraints. Research also sheds light on the stabilisation issues and support needs of transformative companies in order to position and disseminate their new food approaches in a largely non-sustainable environment. A comparison with the international movement of so-called alternative food networks reveals the strengths and weaknesses of the projects examined in Germany and helps to politically and economically classify the overall significance of these socially oriented companies.