Food and Identity: Survive on Coffee

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Food and Identity We are what we Eat – Seriously If you can make it through a day without one cup of coffee I enw you greatly, but the reality is most of us who are either students or working class citizens survive on coffee, it is a daily practice. As an American living in New Zealand will be using Bourdieu’s theory and his key concepts of habitus, field, and capital to examine America’s coffee drinking rituals. will be looking closely at the way that social class influences coffee preferences and their associated meaning in relation to Starbucks and fair trade coffee.

Bourdieu argues, “food and eating is much more than the process Of bodily nourishment, it is an elaborate performance of gender, social class and identity” (1 984, cited in Warin, Turner, Moore, & Davies, 2007: 98). Preferences in coffee, particularly whether you chose to go to Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks and further more whether you chose to pay a little extra for Fairtrade coffee or not, reproduce middle/upper class and working class identities according to Bourdieu’s theory.

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I will sought to prove Bourdieu’s theory and show that taste in coffee are indicators of class because trends in their consumption are nterrelated with an individual’s fit in society. I will start by looking at the background of Starbucks and who their target audience was and how they marketed themselves to this audience. First of all no matter where you are in the world, (although I have found it difficult in NZ to always find a Starbucks, part of the reason moved to Dunedin…. k not really), you are bound to find a Starbucks with generally the same menu in one of their 15, 756 stores around the world. Starbucks can attribute this success to their marketing strategies, they have sold their coffee as a lifestyle n comparison to Dunking Donuts who have sold their brand as a fuel and their main demographic is the working class. A main component of the Starbucks identity is its logo, which is the first thing picture when I think of Starbucks. That royal green color and the Greek mythological character of the siren all pulled together in a tidy seal of luxury.

Starbucks has also created this luxury identity through language as well as the increased price and atmosphere in their cafes. According to fastfoodmenuprices. com, a Standard coffee at Starbucks ranges from a Tall for $2. 95 US, Grande for $3. 75, and Venti for $4. 25. While at Dunkin Donuts a standard coffee ranges from a small for $1. 59 US, medium for $1. 79, and large for $2. 09. So we can see that the prices at Starbucks are higher than those at Dunkin Donuts and therefore are not for the working class person who needs to run in grab a coffee, drink it in 10 minutes, and get back to the office.

What Starbucks is selling is a lifestyle coffee, you walk in the store, they have jazz music playing, there are plenty of seats to lounge in while you enjoy your coffee and catch up with friends. You go to Starbucks to enjoy your coffee not to just fuel up. People use brands to create and or maintain their social status and are becoming more attached to this way of identity in a world where we are becoming more detached with each other. We are using brands and consumerism to describe and identify ourselves, rather than interaction and conversation. Starbucks sells a culture of aesthetics and coffee as a lifestyle, which aligns with Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of social status and distinction. Bourdieu contends that members of higher social classes possess the resourtes and opportunities to secure greater economic, social, and cultural capital than the classes beneath them. (Contois, E. , 2013). This capital determines their development of taste and preference, as well as their desire to acquire things that are unique and show forms of self- expression.

Starbucks coffee went about another way of marketing to make sure their product was distinct and would appeal to the higher social classes who would rather purchase and consume something with consumer distinction. Their marketing strategies shifted from focus on the product to focus on the brand and its concept, being that of a luxury lifestyle brand. On the other hand Dunkin Donuts sells coffee as a fuel, which is obvious from heir famous campaign, “America runs on Dunkin”. Their target audience is that which relates to the working and middle class experiences and values.

When you see someone walking down the street with a Starbucks cup in hand, you expect them to be wearing designer clothes and casually strolling down the street to wherever they have to be. However when you see someone with a Dunkin Donuts cup in hand you expect them to be in casual 9 to 5 office wear, running back to their job after their short break frazzled and in need of a goof caffeine hit. Taking the coffee preference and associated mean ing one step further, we an look into Fairtrade coffee sold in Starbucks stores as well as Starbucks coffee on the shelf and supermarkets with the Fairtrade stamp on it.

On October 4, 2000 Starbucks introduced whole bean, fairtrade certified coffee at over 2,300 stores as a result of an activist campaign. First, a look at why Fairtrade and NGO’s were established. Coffee, the second most valuTABLE market commodity next to petroleum, is a main source of foreign exchange for many Latin American countries, however the coffee bean farmers who are mainly indigenous people only have 10 acres or less of land. They are in a ontinuous cycle of debt because the pay they receive is often less than the price of production. They generally receive less than half the C market price, or between 30 and 50 cents a pound for coffee that retails for as much as $10. That rate earns a family an average of only $600 a year. ” (James, D. 2000). This is obviously not fair, in the commodity chain Of coffee the producers, the people who even make this commodity possible, become an invisible hand and receive an extremely low payment for the hard labor they have put in.

Here is where Fairtrade comes in, if small farmers have their coffee certified ith the Fairtrade stamp they are TABLE to receive a higher pay. “The most important requirement is a minimum price of $1. 26 per pound, paid directly to organized farmer cooperatives–not to middlemen. Fair Trade importers also must provide farmers with credit at fair terms and commit to long term trade relationships. “(James, D. 2000) By 2000, Starbucks was already a middle/upper class household name; it had already proven itself as a consumer distinction product and had many loyal followers.

The reason Starbucks worked so well in the beginning was because it was represented as a luxury specialty item. Who likes to indentify themselves through consuming such items? Those who are TABLE to afford it. So who is going to pay extra for Fairtrade coffee? Those who can afford it, those who buy Starbucks already, those who can afford to purchase things as a way of self-expression. “TransFair reasoned that it could appeal to “specialty” coffee consumers: buyers who pay top dollar for top-quality Arabica beans.

Arabica coffee retails for about $10 a pound and comprises 15 to 25 percent of the total coffee market. TransFair’s research showed that people who pay $10 a pound for offee would not mind adding a dollar more to guarantee a fair trade price to small coffee farmers. ” (James, D. 2000). In this way Fairtrade coffee is related to social status, identity, and habitus. Habitus being those natural felt instincts which are imprinted on us during the course of life that we use without knowing in our social existence and daily practice.

For the middle/upper class and their cultural knowledge capital it is their habitus to be aware of where their coffee is coming from and that their donation can help greatly. If you are born into this habitus and social lass it is just natural to always give because you have more than you need and you are aware of the struggles of other people. When purchasing Fairtrade coffee the consumer is sending two messages, one being that they made and ethical and moral choice to support a business that demonstrates fairness and sustainability, the second being that they have the luxury/money to do so.

With money comes the moral duty to help those ‘less fortunate’ than themselves because they are in a position to do so and since fairtrade guarantees a premium benefit throughout the production chain their moral dentity is reinforced. The same goes for any organic products or whatever it may be that is going to bring moral reinforcement, it is those who can afford to pay the extra dollar or so and who feel they need to help in some way because they were born in such a privileged lifestyle habitus.

Another group who identifies with buying Fairtrade coffee is consumer activists who are an important group to target if you want to sell Fairtrade coffee. Here, the same marketing strategy as catering to the middle/upper class consumer applies. By focusing on the brand and its concept rather than the product itself. “Nike, for example, is leveraging the deep emotional connection that people have with sports and fitness. With Starbucks, we see how coffee has woven itself into the fabric of people’s lives, and that’s our opportunity for emotional leverage.

A great brand raises the bar – it adds a greater sense of purpose to the experience, whether it’s the challenge to do your best in sports and fitness or the affirmation that the cup of coffee you’re drinking really matters”‘ (Klein, 2000, pp. 20-21). By drinking a cup of Fairtrade coffee you are making a social statement that appeals to the consumer activist. The consumer activist is generally from the more affluent class and therefore has the option to vote by purchasing power. So why is a consumer going to pay top price for a product that is a basic natural resource and generally the same no matter what brand?

We can look at Bourdieu to understand why distinguishing a product as Fairtrade justifies a consumer paying top dollar, the fear of not living up to the innumerTABLE duties entailed by the ‘liberated’ life-style, in the awareness of not possessing the dispositions needed to fulfill them, a new form of the sense of moral unworthiness (Bourdieu 1986, p. 10). Consumer activism is favored by the middle class and gives power to those who have the ability to change the patterns of consumerism with ease.

In conclusion by drinking Starbucks or Fairtrade coffee one is unknowingly recreating their identity of themselves and drinking coffee as a lifestyle choice in relation to Bourdieu’s theory of social status and distinction. We have concluded that those with the ability to buy into distinctive consumerism are those Of middle/upper class citizens and that is what both Starbucks and Fairtrade caters to. We can also confirm Bourdieus theory that tastes in food, ulture and presentation are indicators or class because trends in their consumption interrelate with ones place in society.

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Food and Identity: Survive on Coffee. (2018, Feb 07). Retrieved from

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