Market’s imperfections: Building a concerned market for food waste

Sarah Roxenne Deljanin

Student thesis: Master thesis


Food waste has emerged in recent years as an important issue, for its harmful social, economic, ethical and environmental consequences (Stuart, 2009, FAO, 2013). The aim of this thesis is to investigate how the strategy developed by a small French initiative called ‘The Ugly Mugs’ has been able to lead to the emergence of a concerned market, i.e. a market shaped to take into considerations the things or situations that “relate to us, affect us, worry us” (Geiger et al, 2014:2). Talking about concerned markets is not a discussion about yet another type of markets (Cochoy, 2014). It is about understanding the situations that every market faces when new concerns arise and how market architectures evolve to deal with them. Discussing concerned markets is about understanding how markets generate concerns and how those concerns shape new markets. ‘The Ugly Mugs’, as the ‘first universal label against food waste’, emerged as a leading actor in bringing back into the market the imperfect food products, that overproduction, calibration and standards have kept away from the consumer’s eye and stomach. Following the development of The Ugly Mugs enables to understand how solutions emerge to build and shape markets to tackle food waste. Through the study, three key aspects were identified which, together, contribute to build concerned markets: 1) turning ‘matters of facts’ into ‘matters of concerns’ by both denouncing market flaws and inviting for action; 2) gathering and mobilizing a nebula of actors to trigger change by interconnecting concerns to interests; 3) inscribing these concerns at the very grounded level of supermarkets’ interactions and products, to foster consumers’ attachment and mobilisation. As such, the case suggests that the construction of a concerned market rests heavily upon the objectification of concerns; the shaping of concerned actors and the qualification of concerned products. Altogether, this has enabled The Ugly Mugs to lay the foundations for sustainable change in the food market and serves as a source of inspiration to gauge the power of collective action in markets as arenas of social change.

EducationsMSc in Business, Language and Culture, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2015
Number of pages89