You are what you eat - and the company you keep

Birgitte Friis Ølgod

Student thesis: Master thesis


Contemporary consumers have been released from the traditional identity anchors such as family, class and other social groups. Instead consumers have turned to the market – to form identities and create communities with others through consumption. To study how consumers use consumption as a new way of forming identity anchors, this study focuses on food consumption in a Danish context. Food consumption is crucial to the consumer from a biological perspective but it is also highly influenced by the social and cultural context A myth of health exists in the Danish food culture, and official dietary guidelines are presented to obtain the desirable identity position of a healthy consumer. In spite of the guidelines, alternative food regimes exist within the Danish food culture, each with their interpretation of the health myth. One of these alternative food regimes is LCHF (Low Carb High Fat), which is the research case of the present study. Through the LCHF food regime this study seeks to explore why consumers choose an alternative food regime, what they obtain from this particular food consumption and how this insight can be interesting to marketers. Through a qualitative interview study with six devoted female LCHF-followers, and a netnographic study of a popular LCHF Facebook group, I find that choosing an alternative food regime is the result of dissatisfaction with the official dietary guidelines and an experience of stigmatisation within the Danish food culture. Following the official guidelines has not provided the consumers with a healthy identity, and they start looking for an alternative. After experiencing the physical wellbeing of consuming LCHF food the consumers start questioning the authorities’ definition of health. The feeling of stigmatisation and the distrust in official authorities make LCHF-followers break with the traditional food regime and build a LCHF community. This community is important to LCHF-followers because of the shared group identity and the cocreated knowledge among the members. The community’s recognition empowers individuals to take back control in their lives. LCHF-followers learn to rely on their body-signals instead of complying with official guidelines. Based on this, LCHF-followers adopt the identity of a healthy individual with a high amount of self-control. The choice of following LCHF cannot only be perceived as an act of resistance but also as part of a continuous status game, where social status is gained through culinary capital. LCHF-followers’ food knowledge provides them a certain social status within the Danish food culture. The findings of this study are interesting to marketers as they provide an understanding of consumers’ consumption choices and how to approach them with attractive market offerings.

EducationsMSc in Brand and Communications Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2015
Number of pages208