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A qualitative study of the food-related experiences of rural village shop customers

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Abstract Background: 

In the UK, although food choice in urban contexts has been widely studied, far less empirical information has been gathered from rural settings. With the closure of local services, some rural dwellers were believed to experience difficulties in meeting healthy eating recommendations. The present study aimed to explore perceptions of village store users. Methods: 

Semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted individually with 40 adults who were frequent users of rural village shops in Norfolk, UK. Participants were purposively selected to ensure that a wide demographic cross-section of customers was obtained. Interviews focused upon food choice strategies; attitudes towards rural food retail; and the provision of healthy foods. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed qualitatively, using an established interpretative phenomenological approach. Results: 

Four main themes emerged as drivers of food choice in rural villages: (1) village store as icon, which described how the perceived centrality of village shops influenced food choices; (2) village store as a service provider, which described top-up shopping behaviours; (3) alternative food sources, which described store users desires for local foods and their attitudinal conflicts towards supermarkets; and (4) lifestyle factors, which described the influence of factors such as time pressures, access to cars and family structures. Conclusions: 

Food choices were strongly influenced by the distinctive characteristics of the rural environment. Village shops were seen as important for community identity (‘rural idyll’), as well as providing access to food and services. However, desires were made apparent for a greater range of healthy, fresh and locally-sourced foods.
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Keywords: consumer behaviour; healthy eating; qualitative; rural; shopping

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Food Research, Norwich Research Park, Colney, Norwich, UK 2: School of Allied Health Professions, Faculty of Health, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK 3: East Anglia Food Link, The Street, Long Stratton, Norwich, UK

Publication date: 2009-04-01

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