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Flexible accumulation, retail capital, and discourse in Kroger supermarkets

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Flexible accumulation, retail capital, and discourse in Kroger supermarkets
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Stilley, Jeffrey ( author )
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Denver, CO
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University of Colorado Denver
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Abstract:
Large supermarket chains in the United States during the corporate-environmental food regime form powerful nexuses between the consumer, the producer, the processor, and the state in the era of flexible capital accumulation. It is in this context that the present thesis provides a US-based empirical case study of Kroger supermarkets in order to explore how intense competition and the logic of retail capital shape supermarket attempts to both regulation and capitalize on consumer demands. Using critical discourse analysis, this paper introduces a unique analytical scheme to identify three different forms of rationality in retail marketing framing of discourse: individualized reason, cosmopolitan risk, and enchantment, contextualized by retail capital and business strategies. Individualized rationality, often framed in terms of personal responsibility, appears throughout the Kroger experience. Kroger's competitive need to ensure convenience and consistent supply of an expanding number of product options is inconsistent with its cosmopolitan risk framing. Increasing utilization of enchanted rationality appears as an emergent trend to boost sales and brand loyalty, a practice borrowed from high-end supermarkets.
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Thesis (M.A.)--University of Colorado Denver. Sociology
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Includes bibliographic references.
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Department of Sociology
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by Jeffrey Stilley.

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Full Text
FLEXIBLE ACCUMULATION, RETAIL CAPITAL,
AND DISCOURSE IN KROGER SUPERMARKETS
by
JEFFREY STILLEY
B.S., Kansas State University, 2008
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
Sociology
2014


This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by
Jeffrey Stilley
has been approved for the
Sociology Program
by
Akihiko Hirose, Chair
Keith Guzik
John Brett
May 2, 2014


Stilley, Jeffrey (M.A., Sociology)
Flexible Accumulation, Retail Capital, and Discourse in Kroger Supermarkets
Thesis directed by Assistant Professor Akihiko Hirose.
ABSTRACT
Large supermarket chains in the United States during the corporate-environmental
food regime form powerful nexuses between the consumer, the producer, the processor,
and the state in the era of flexible capital accumulation. It is in this context that the
present thesis provides a US-based empirical case study of Kroger supermarkets in order
to explore how intense competition and the logic of retail capital shape supermarket
attempts to both regulate and capitalize on consumer demands. Using critical discourse
analysis, this paper introduces a unique analytical scheme to identify three different
forms of rationality in retail marketing framing of discourse: individualized reason,
cosmopolitan risk, and enchantment, contextualized by retail capital and business
strategies. Individualized rationality, often framed in terms of personal responsibility,
appears throughout the Kroger experience. Krogers competitive need to ensure
convenience and consistent supply of an expanding number of product options is
inconsistent with its cosmopolitan risk framing. Increasing utilization of enchanted
rationality appears as an emergent trend to boost sales and brand loyalty, a practice
borrowed from high-end supermarkets.
The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication.
Approved: Akihiko Hirose
in


DEDICATION
To Megan. Your hard work, advice, and patience made this possible. Thank you.
To my sons. Playtime helped me keep it all in perspective. Thank you.
IV


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
I would like to thank my advisor Akihiko Hirose for his countless hours spent
helping me through this project, beginning long before I came to this topic. His patience,
flexibility, and trust in me were indispensible in the final months, as were the numerous
highly specific comments and suggestions.
I would also like to thank Keith Guzik and John Brett for their time and
complementary big-picture comments that were so vital to the improved organization and
clarity of the thesis.
v


TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTERS
I. INTRODUCTION 1
II. GLOBAL FOOD SYSTEMS & SUPERMARKETS 8
Regulation & Flexible Accumulation 9
Food Regimes 12
Biological Constraints to Capital & the Food Regimes Perspective 17
Supermarkets 19
Discourse 25
Rationalizations & Shopping 28
Individualized Reason 29
Cosmopolitan Risk 31
Enchantment 33
III. METHOD 35
Critical Discourse Analysis 35
Data 37
Analytical Scheme 39
vi


IV. KROGER FINDINGS 40
Kroger Operations & Business Strategies 40
Individualized Reason Results 42
Cosmopolitan Risk Results 47
Enchantment Results 54
V. DISCUSSION & CONCLUSIONS 57
Kroger Discourse 57
Kroger Retail Capital 60
U.S. Supermarkets & the Food Regime 62
Conclusions 64
REFERENCES 69
vii


CHAPTERI
INTRODUCTION
When I drive around Denver, Colorado, between home, work, and school, I
regularly pass three identical billboards that say in giant letters, simple truth: Eat
Better, Think Simple. The first two words are in a stylish botanically themed green
circle. The other letters are in black on a white background. The message is clear: if I
want to improve my diet, all I need to do is take out the complicated components. In
my mind, an improved diet is a healthier one, and complicated food conjures
processed and heavily packaged products, with ingredients I cannot pronounce. Get
rid of complicated food, and better eating follows. Simple, right?
If I stop to consider how I am interpreting the message, however, I realize I am
making a lot of assumptions based on my own values and skills. I view eating as an
essential part of my health. I am also perfectly comfortable in the kitchen making a
wide range of dishes from scratch, and indeed value that skill as an ability to control
what goes into my body. Yet there are many other ways people can define what it
means to eat better, and what simple food is. Simple can just as well mean easy to
prepare. Eating better could mean eating tastier food. It could mean eating with a
gentler environmental impact, or from local sources. It could mean eating healthier
using a totally different perspective of healthy than the one I have, and so on.
The signs are advertising a brand of food sold at King Soopers supermarkets, a
locally based chain of large grocery stores all over Colorado and Wyoming. They
appear as representations of my friendly local grocer helping me simplify my shopping
trips. It turns out that King Soopers and the Simple Truth brand are actually owned by
1


The Kroger Company (Kroger), based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Outside of Wal-Mart,
Kroger is the biggest grocer in America (Planet Retail 2012). In 2012, it enjoyed
$96.8 billion in sales and employed over 340,000 people. Its 34 distribution centers
and 37 food processing plants serviced over 2,400 supermarkets in 31 states1 (Kroger
2013 c). Most of its supermarkets, including King Soopers locations, are what they
call combination stores convenient one-stop supermarkets tailored to the
neighborhood which average 67,000 square feet and offer consumers about 50,000
food options in a store (Kroger 2013c). Organizationally, Kroger presents a stark
contrast to the way it markets at least one of its product lines.
Simplicity and naturalness are in vogue, with giant manufacturers, like Heinz
(Simply Heinz: Americas Favorite Ketchup made simply from the basics) and
Pillsbury (Simply... Cookies: Cookies are made just like youd make them at home,
with no preservatives and no artificial colors or flavors), emphasizing the simplicity
of some of their product lines. The expansion of product choices at the grocery store
to include more natural selections next to the processed versions appears as a shift
back toward pre-WWII ways of eating, when food was not heavily processed and
consumption decisions were based on tradition rather than nutrition science (Dixon
2009; Collingham 2012). The technology and organization needed to coordinate the
production and distribution of Simple Truth fresh chicken, for example, to thousands
of Kroger stores across America in a consistent, cheap, and profitable manner,
1 Kroger sells groceries under the following banners: Baker's, City Market, Dillons,
Fry's, Gerbes, Jay C, King Soopers, Kroger, Owen's, Pay Less, QFC, Ralphs, Scott's,
Smith's, Fred Meyer, Food 4 Less, Foods Co., Ruler Foods, and Harris Teeter.
2


however, are very new. These new ways of supermarkets doing business are part of a
larger economic context of flexible production, flexible labor, and flexible capital
accumulation (Burch & Lawrence 2007). Such flexibility in a consumption driven
market, like Americas, translates to opportunities for targeting a range of consumer
niches. The very industrialization of food production and consumption that led us to
this point has changed the social meaning of nature, creating opportunities for food
companies to symbolically shape more directly how we relate to nature through their
commodities (Goodman & Redclift 1991). The disconnect between an American
consumer and food supply chains, then, creates the opportunity for which Kroger may
act as mediator between shopper and nature with simple fresh chicken.
If food companies are merely acting in response to consumer desires in a
flexible manner, however, that could signal a seismic shift in the power relations
between practical production concerns and cultural or political values. In other words,
consumer preferences may now hold a historically new level of influence over how the
products they consume are produced and distributed, through flexible supply chains.
To the degree that this is the case, it typically occurs through the intercession of retail
supermarkets. Supermarkets control spaces of exchange where production and
consumption meet, and they employ cultural symbols to lubricate economic exchange
(Dixon 2008). The supermarket sector is highly competitive, and has been on a clear
path of consolidation since the mid-1990s in America (Konefal et al. 2007), which
highlights the growing significance of retail capital accumulation. Social scientists
and food activists are confronted with the problem of attempting to sort out how much
influence customers have over supermarkets and supply chains.
3


Retail capital, like any other capital, must accumulate and expand. Flexible
capital accumulation (Harvey 1989), through flexible and innovative labor,
production, and consumption patterns, is the current dominant mode of capital
accumulation. Retail capital is not purely economic, however, in that it attempts to
encourage and facilitate exchange through cultural symbols (Marsden & Wrigley
1995). Retailers extract value from the act of consumption, in addition to the labor
process. It is an open debate as to how much agency and power customers have in the
shaping of cultural and political processes in the marketplace. It has been argued that
identity is merely purchased through commodities that represent a range of ideologies
(Wrenn 2012), that fair trade has commodified development through celebrity-
centered marketing (Goodman 2010), that credit cards enable consumers to exchange
emotional needs for the purchase of fetishized objects (Salerno 2012), and that a
fetishized guilt complex has arisen where liberal guilt is supplied with fair trade
commodities that do not affect the potency of capital (Cremin 2012). Another
perspective holds that conflicts occur within and between production and consumption
domains. The argument says that shopping is a political act, and that consumers have
the agency and intelligence to penetrate the commodity veil (Goodman & DuPuis
2002).
In order to sort out this political economy of consumption, it is necessary to
explore how the political economy and cultural aspects of consumption interact, and
how social and political practices embody both (Marsden & Wrigley 1995:1899).
Global food relations and dominant modes of capital accumulation, for example,
condition the political economy of eating. It is no secret that Americans eat and waste
4


food on a scale unimaginable in many parts of the world. Yet, Americans only spend
5.5% of their disposable income on groceries (Kraft 2013), even given the fact that
supermarkets are stocked with thousands of products from all over the world at any
given time. These facts can only be understood if the inequitous global system of food
production and distribution is recognized. A food regimes perspective (Friedmann &
McMichael 1989; McMichael 2009) provides the basis for that understanding.
Through U.S. political and economic hegemony, millions of Americans enjoy
incredible access to a quantity and quality of food options unparalleled in history.
These global power relations are largely invisible to American consumers, who
nevertheless compose an important piece of the current food regime.
Essential to political and cultural practices in the context of a food regime are
the social processes for determining what truth is in a society. Structures of power
require regimes of truth for maintenance of systems of domination (Foucault 1977).
A regime of truth produces discourses that legitimate and stabilize power relations.
Thus, a regime of truth in centers of power, like the U.S., is a necessary component for
the maintenance of power relations found in the current food regime. This paper,
therefore, utilizes a critical discourse analysis (CDA) approach (Van Dijk 1993;
Fairclough 2013), which seeks to expose the ways discourses can both maintain and
undermine systems of domination. A CDA approach provides the best way to
empirically explore the many layers of dialectical relationships between discursive
framing and flexible capital accumulation.
Shopping for food at a supermarket is something that someone from just about
every American household does on a regular basis. In fact, King Kullen Grocery
5


Company in New York invented the supermarket model now prevalent around the
world in 1930, with the strategy of selling huge volumes of food at low profit
margins (Lawrence & Burch 2007). Supermarkets have since come to be a normal
part of everyday life all over America, and supermarkets are the places where flexible
accumulation and discourse come together in the context of food systems. Food is
also often a source of contention and struggle around the world, as its vital use value
often does not match its commodified exchange value (McMichael 1994). The
importance to global food relations, and the ubiquity in everyday life, of U.S.
supermarkets make them a significant site for study into the political economy of
consumption.
This research, then, begins with the question: How do discourse and capital
shape the supermarket experience in America? Critical discourse analysis is utilized
with a case study of Kroger supermarkets in order to pursue the question. Kroger is
the largest dedicated grocery store chain in the U.S (Planet Retail 2012); it has
aggressively pursued a Customer 1st strategy, as well as targeted both value-
conscious customers and the natural market (Kroger 2013c). Discourse and capital
are both essential as the social importance of semiotics has become acute during the
consumption-dependent era of flexible accumulation (Fairclough 2013). A unique
analytical scheme is developed for this research project, based on how purchasing
decisions and brand loyalty are rationalized in the symbolic framing of discourse. I
use individualized reason, cosmopolitan risk, and enchantment as ideal-types for
analysis of how Kroger frames its products and brand.
6


What follows is a chapter outlining what is already known regarding capital
accumulation and food systems, supermarkets, and outlines discourse theory. It also
argues for a Marxian-regulation approach to studying food systems, and theoretically
develops the analytical scheme employed in the study. Chapter III outlines the CDA
methodology used, and its usefulness for empirically looking at the influences of
discourse and capital in a U.S. supermarket. Chapter IV presents the results of the
research. Chapter V provides discussion regarding the emergent trends found in the
study, how they relate to the corporate-environmental food regime, and states what the
contributions of the study are.
7


CHAPTER II
GLOBAL FOOD SYSTEMS & SUPERMARKETS
In order to situate the importance of American supermarkets in todays global
economy, a review of relevant political economy theory is first presented. Regulation
school theory (Aglietta 1976[2000]) and flexible accumulation (Harvey 1989) are
outlined, followed by the food regimes perspective (Friedmann & McMichael 1989).
The regulation school provides the context with which to study political economy of
consumption, as it incorporates politics and culture into its perspective on how regimes
of capital accumulation operate. Flexible accumulation is the primary contemporary
mode of capital accumulation, and provides a wider economic context for the
importance of retail capital and its flexible responsiveness to consumer trends. The
food regimes perspective outlines the structure of global food systems with a
regulation approach, and it explains the current food regime the corporate-
environmental regime in the context of flexible accumulation. Criticisms of the
food regimes approach are then described.
A brief overview of literature highlighting the nexus of food production and
consumption found in supermarkets is offered as a backdrop to why supermarkets are
important to study and why both capital and discourse are essential factors in their
operation. A section on the theoretical justifications and relevant concepts for
discourse studies is next. Lastly, the theoretical basis for the analytical scheme of
different forms of rationalization for marketing and consumption developed for this
study is justified and described. This includes McDonaldization for individualized
8


reason (Ritzer 2008), the theory of a modern risk society for cosmopolitan risk (Beck
1992), and the enchantment of retail spaces (Ritzer 2010).
Regulation & Flexible Accumulation
Perspectives abound in social science studies of agrifood systems regarding the
processes at play within production and consumption sides of the equation, as well as
how they relate to each other (see Goodman & DuPuis 2002). Some scholars reject
the Marxian-regulation global narratives of agricultural production found in food
regimes literature, described below, as coherent examples of wider economic trends,
because they see agriculture as fundamentally different from industrial production (for
example, see Fine 1994; Goodman & Watts 1994). Such critiques are important
reminders that the differences in land use, technology, nutritional perception, and shelf
life for various agricultural commodities require diverse production and distribution
systems that cannot be easily abstracted and related to each other, or to nonagricultural
commodities. Goodman and DuPuis (2002), on the other hand, are unsatisfied with
the orthodox Marxian perspective that rejects any notion of food consumption as a
meaningful activity. Even so, the Marxian-regulation food regimes approach provides
the best way to historicize and theorize the current relationship between consumption
and production in agrifood systems. Marx and Engels (1978) argued that the most
essential dialectic for any period of history lies in the contradiction between the
productive forces and the form of intercourse, or exchange and property rights (196).
Marxs exclusive focus on production, however, made more sense during 19th Century
industrial capitalism than it does today. Thus, a Marx-inspired analysis need not
discount exchange and consumption. The regulation school (Aglietta 1976[2000])
9


provides further nuance and historical context with which to locate retailers in a
complex political-economic system. It may be difficult to provide coherent meta-
theories across food systems in a vacuum, but a Marxian-regulation perspective shows
how the rise in retail capital concentration, and its power over production and
distribution, relates to the current regime of capital accumulation.
The regulation approach (Aglietta 1976[2000]) to social analysis demarcates
rough historical epochs, or regimes, which hold relatively stable power constellations in
service of capital accumulation. The necessary power relations recreate themselves
through arrangements that are mutually beneficial for key actors and institutions in the
domains of politics, production, consumption, distribution, culture, media, and so on.
Regulation school scholarship emphasizes that there are a host of interests that must be
considered when studying unequal distributions of power, wealth, and capital (Harvey
1989). The mode of regulation is the formal and informal institutions that arise in order
to provide structure and stability to each regime. Within each epoch, not all phenomena
are indicative of the regulation regime, but the activities related to the maintenance of the
regime are key.
While the words regulation and regime indicate a focus on structure and
stability, this approach also often expressly utilizes a Marxian dialectical analysis and an
emphasis on historical contradictions. David Harvey (2003) has carried this tradition
forth with the thesis that each regime operates under the dialectic between the logic of
territorial imperial power, and the logic of capital accumulation. These two interests
sometimes align, sometimes contradict each other, and each logic comes with its own
contradictions. Three regimes are outlined (Harvey 2003): Bourgeois Imperialism (circa
10


1870-1945), American Hegemony or Fordism (circa 1945-1970), and Neo-liberal
Hegemony or Post-Fordism (circa 1970-2000). Bourgeois imperialism rose from
excess capital accumulation in European political centers, which was then invested in
colonies that, as a result, had to be brought under more direct imperial control. American
hegemony brought decolonization around the world, along with high global dependency
on U.S. political security and trade agreement, and currency policies. Neo-liberal
hegemony is marked by structural adjustments, financialization, and the free flow of
capital globally to extract profit from formerly public assets and formerly peasant held
land. Each regime is driven to economic crisis by the problem of overaccumulation of
capital, which must incessantly find or create new opportunities for reinvestment:
The Marxist argument is, then, that the tendency towards overaccumulation can
never be eliminated under capitalism. It is a never-ending and eternal problem
for any capitalist mode of production. The only question, therefore, is how the
overaccumulation tendency can be expressed, contained, absorbed, or managed
in ways that do not threaten the capitalist social order. We here encounter the
heroic side of bourgeois life and politics, in which real choices have to be made if
the social order is not to dissolve into chaos. (Harvey 1989:181)
Regime of truth discourse is a vital way this overaccumulation tendency is managed.
Nonetheless, paradoxically, each regime is stable, yet ultimately unsustainable due to
objective contradictions, and must give way to a new regime when crisis occurs.
For Harvey (1989), the dominant economic theme of the neoliberal regime is
flexible accumulation. The crisis of American hegemony and Fordism occurred because
the unionized arrangements of production-based growth could no longer keep pace with
the amount of capital accumulating. Flexible accumulation is largely based on financial
capital, as well as flexible productions that use technology to move information and
supplies quickly across time and space. Labor has been defanged, cross-trained, and
11


made mobile in order to more efficiently supply cheap and skilled labor when needed.
Flexible production has also allowed for the flexible targeting of specialized consumer
demands: Flexible accumulation has been accompanied on the consumption side,
therefore, by a much greater attention to quick-changing fashions and the mobilization of
all the artifices of need inducement and cultural transformation that this implies (Harvey
1989:156). This economic process is the practical foundation to the significance of
discourse in contemporary political economy considerations. Flexible accumulation,
then, potentially imparts on the supermarket consumer a qualitatively new importance in
relation to agricultural production. Supermarkets want to control consumption habits of
course, but they still may be responsive to patterns in consumer demands in a new and
dynamic way.
Food Regimes
Harriet Friedmann and Philip McMichael (1989) established the food regimes
perspective with a historical narrative of both the emergence of the liberal nation state
and the industrialization of agriculture across two time periods. The dialectical analysis
presented provides a useful lens with which to study the politics and the process of
capital accumulation that international systems of agricultural production, distribution,
and exchange develop through. Percolating below the surface of questions posed by the
food regimes interpretation is the classic Agrarian Question, which asks how the
countryside is transformed by urban capital accumulation. Araghi (2003) argues the food
regimes viewpoint is vital for deepening an understanding of the reproduction of labor
via wage-food, and as an integral piece of what he calls embedded imperialism. This
concept refers to exploitative relations in production. Global agriculture exemplifies the
12


concept as a cog in the reproduction of labor power, and the neoliberal era acceleration of
depeasantization worldwide (Araghi 2003).
Food regimes literature adopts a regulation approach to food systems, and they
map roughly onto the same regimes introduced above. Friedmann (2005) argues that
food regimes arise from conflicts between social movements and powerful factions, and
are centered about implicit rules extracted from a convergence of various interests
benefiting from the regime. Not all agricultural activity during a time period is
necessarily directly tied to the corresponding regime, and the interests that gain from any
food regime may draw their power from politics or capital. However, the
industrialization of agriculture commodifies food, puts downward pressure on the real
cost of reproducing labor, and displaces increasing numbers of peasants into the
industrial reserve army. Thus, contradictions inherent in a food regime are an expression
of the contradictions of capitalism (McMichael 2005). I will now turn to the specifics of
the first two regimes.
The first food regime later dubbed the Colonial-Diasporic Regime (Friedmann
2005) lasted from 1870 to 1914 (Friedmann & McMichael 1989). It was based upon
colonial exports of wheat and meat from settler states like America (former colony)
and Australia to European urban centers. The final stages of colonialism saw European
cities attempt to exert direct political control over occupied tropical colonies for the
extraction of industrial inputs. The process of urbanization also required increasing
volumes of cheap wage food for the expanding proletariat. The settler colonies provided
the wage-food with unpaid family labor by European emigrants, but from geographic
locations of increasingly economically sovereign nations. Thus, out of the politically
13


colonial European industrial cities rose the power of the nation-state, based upon
international trade and liberal contract political relations (McMichael 2009). The whole
process was facilitated by the industrialization of Europe, as well as technological
advancements in transportation and agricultural production.
Perhaps as important as food regimes are the periods of crisis and transition
between regimes (McMichael 2009). Crises provide the recalibration that becomes
necessary out of the culmination of contradictions (Harvey 2011). A new system may be
bom that provides both a new set of stable relations, and a somewhat new set of
contradictions. The first food regime was initially dismantled by World War I, and the
transition extended through the Great Depression, Dust Bowls among the nation-states,
and World War II (Friedmann 2005). The Dust Bowls were a direct consequence of
plowing huge swaths of untouched land for monoculture agricultural production during
the first food regime, exposing a contradiction between production and the environment,
and displacing many farmers from the land.
The second food regime or the Mercantile-Industrial Regime lasted from
1947 to 1973 (Friedmann 2005). This regime centered around the dependency of
decolonized states on U.S. food exports, and the opposing movement toward flexible
transnational supply chains. The dependency of the third world on American food
exports arose out of the desire of decolonized states to quickly industrialize by moving
peasants to urban centers and the loss of markets for tropical exports due to food
processing technology advances in more developed economies (Friedmann & McMichael
1989). There are several important threads to bear in mind for this period. First, the
whole system centered on the United States economic hegemony. This hegemony was
14


based on the fact that America came out of WWII as the only large economy better off
after the war than before, largely because agricultural production massively expanded
(Collingham 2012). Thus, the U.S. was in a position to restructure international trade
around American interests and the dollar, through agreements like Bretton Woods. Post
war aid packages and the International Monetary Fund, tied closely to the interests of the
U.S. Treasury Department, formalized and regulated global dependency on heavily
subsidized American grain.
The expansion of agricultural production outside the U.S. came to erode the
territorial hegemony of American grain exports. This process can be seen at work in the
rise of the Livestock Complex during the second food regime (Friedmann 1994). This
rise in globalized animal protein supply chains displaced farmers from local systems of
provision for food and clothing around the world. Transnational businesses built huge
feedlots in countries across the globe, like Argentina, that all operate the same way, use
similar feed, and harvest for heavy processing. These operations can be established in
whatever countries offer the most lucrative incentives, and are facilitated by technologies
that allow for distance and durability in distribution (Friedmann 1994). Transnational
agribusinesses are able to regulate their own production practices, and have transformed
huge swaths of farmland worldwide toward the production of inputs for industrialized
food processing (Friedmann 1994). This transnationalization of food systems helped
erode the mercantile-industrial food regime.
While there is some debate as to whether a third regime can be satisfactorily
established academically, it is often described as a corporate-environmental regime
(Friedmann 2005). This paper makes the assumption that we are currently within a third
15


food regime because it provides a highly relevant lens with which to relate supermarkets
to global food systems (McMichael & Friedmann 2007), and there has been sufficient
empirical evidence and theoretical debate offered for its establishment (Friedmann 2005;
McMichael 2005; McMichael & Friedmann 2007; Burch & Lawrence 2009; Campbell
2009; Dixon 2009; McMichael 2009; and Gimenez & Shattuck 2011). The most
important characteristics of this regime are the continued expansion of animal protein
supply chains, the supermarket-led reorganization of supply chains, the displacement of
small farmers globally, and the selective appropriation of elite consumer demands
(Friedmann 2005; McMichael 2009). The corporate-environmental regime operates
within three dynamics of world agriculture: financialization (which often results in
vertical integration and horizontal mergers in food businesses), privatization of states
(through structural adjustment policies), and the priority of money value in crises (rather
than long-term economic and practical sustainability) (McMichael 2005). World
agriculture is a globalized system of food production, where food security through the
market is emphasized, and knowledge of seeds and soil is privatized (McMichael 2005).
The financialization of agri-food systems, the most relevant world agriculture
dynamic for U.S. supermarkets, is part of a wider neoliberal economic trend since the
1970s (Marsden & Whatmore 1994; Busch 2010). Banking capital has entered into
farmland properties, farming equipment, and direct investments or takeovers in
fundamentally new ways from the 1980s on (Burch & Lawrence 2009). On the global
stage, World Bank decisions and futures trading markets for agricultural commodities
visit remarkable reorganizations worldwide (Burch & Lawrence 2009). Supermarkets
have also been affected, with private equity management of some retailers for short term
16


profit, and many retailers now behaving like hedge funds and private equity groups on
their own, in a process of financialization in reverse (Burch & Lawrence 2009).
As will be discussed below, supermarkets compete by targeting consumer
demands. The rise of supermarket power over supply chains provides the opportunity to
resolve some contradictions in the first two food regimes. Campbell (2009) argues that if
supermarket driven auditing mechanisms can successfully make food systems socially
legitimate and ecologically accountable, this may turn the corporate-environmental
regime into a food from somewhere regime, based on auditing and certification
systems, like Colorado Proud, fair trade labels, the Rainforest Alliance program, and so
on. However, the food from somewhere consumer value may be socially dependent on
distinguishing itself from cheap food from nowhere products (Campbell 2009). In fact,
the elite economy of quality in question may even serve to intensify accumulation by
dispossession in global agriculture (McMichael & Friedmann 2007). So far, attempts at
regulating food production in an ethical manner have led to a proliferation of excess
product labels since 2001 that confuse customers. Further, the labels are usually attached
to luxury goods, and they typically address global human rights concerns, rather than
localized development needs (Seidman 2005). Supermarkets represent important
locations in the social legitimacy of corporate appropriation of consumer demands in the
third food regime.
Biological Constraints to Capital & the Food Regimes Perspective
The food regimes approach to studying agriculture and food systems has received
considerable criticism on a number of grounds. A major critique is that agricultural
production practices have not been significantly altered by capital:
17


the attempt to equate agriculture and industry is misguided. The agricultural
labour process remains highly individualistic, entrepreneurial, and provides
continuing scope to practice the art of farming. Its industrial counterpart, by
contrast, is characterized by a highly complex division of labour, de-skilling, and
the destruction of craft knowledge. (Goodman & Redclift 1991:100)
In other words, even large farms are quite often family owned and maximize family
labor. Farmers are still craftsmen who have to know their landscape and soil composition
or livestock biological needs in order to customize production practices. Thus, a global
food regimes narrative of agricultural matters that utilizes industrial terminology does not
allow space to discuss agrarian spatial organization and production (Goodman & Watts
1994).
This concern largely derives from the fact that food production and consumption
are both heavily conditioned by biological constraints, such as erosion, natural disasters,
climate change, and plant and animal diseases for production; and nutrient requirements,
caloric intake limitations, and allergies for consumption (Goodman & Redclift 1991; Fine
1994). The conclusion is that Fordist and post-Fordist analytical categories can only be
applied arbitrarily to empirical food systems findings (Goodman & Watts 1994; Fine,
Heasman & Wright 1996). Fine et al. (1996) argue that the only effective way of
analyzing food systems is through a vertical and spatially limited systems-of-
provision approach: There is not a single food system, either across all foods or even
globally for a single food, with differentiation between one country and another even if it
serves a common world market to a greater or lesser extent. Each food system is
potentially structured differently and has a distinct chronology (8-9). They do concede
horizontal relations and similarities, but they firmly argue for vertical analysis.
18


While it is certainly true that agricultural production has been affected by capital
indirectly through financed industrial inputs (Goodman & Redclift 1991), a regulation
approach views agricultural production as a piece of any capital accumulation regime. It
is not fatally problematic that labor organization in agricultural production does not
mirror the factory line. Further, this paper takes into account that utilizing the two
analytical categories Fordist and post-Fordist is problematic. I will use different social
theories for my analysis of discourse in Kroger supermarkets, but with the understanding
that the rise of retail importance in food supply chains is a reflection of post-Fordist (i.e.,
flexible accumulation) processing and marketing abilities and strategies (see Lowe &
Wrigley 1996 for an outline of this argument). A report from a retail consulting firm
provides support for this perspective: Nimble retailers are driving awareness of market
trends and sales data throughout the supply chain, helping them meet customer demand
faster, reducing working capital tied up in inventory, and avoiding markdowns on unsold
inventory (Ripsam et al. 2010:5). The growing domination of retailers (while not total)
over producers, processors, and consumers is essentially horizontal in nature, and must be
understood in terms of wider relations of capital accumulation.
Supermarkets
The rise of retailer importance since the 80s has come partially due to
government deregulation trends worldwide, which has opened the door for private
regulation of quality and product differentiation (Marsden & Wrigley 1996; Lawrence &
Burch 2007). While the quantified demand for food is relatively inelastic per capita,
supermarkets have proven masterful at increasing product choice by offering more value-
added industrialized food products, as well as more naturalized foods (Marsden &
19


Wrigley 1995). Product and brand differentiation have been necessary strategies for the
continuance of capital accumulation because of high competition and low profit margins,
along with somewhat inflexible demand (Konefal, Mascarenhas & Hatanaka 2005).
Consolidation of market control by the supermarket chains has led to increased power
over growers, manufacturers, and distributors of all sizes through a host of rules and
fees that must be complied with in order to have access to consumers (Lawrence & Burch
2007; Dixon 2008).
The importance of retailers over supply chains may signify an important shift in
the Marxian dialectic between production and exchange. In other words, consumer
decisions at the point of exchange may be coming to have profound effects down the
supply chain through the concentration of supermarket market share. Understanding how
retail capital and discourse interact at the supermarket is important in relation to
regulation in a flexible accumulation era political economy of consumption (Marsden &
Wrigley 1995).
The era of flexible accumulation has emphasized the opportunities for profit
through promoting and guiding consumerism. Supermarkets in particular have done an
effective job of re-embedding food economies and food cultures in local imaginations
just as they dis-embed them through their global supply sourcing (Dixon & Isaacs
2013:284). Such meaning work is conducted through branding strategies that attempt to
gain consumer trust and loyalty (Dixon 2007). This is accomplished through imposing an
imperial knowledge system that defines for the consumer what food quality and safety
are through cultural messages (Freidberg 2007).
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Product differentiation and training customers to consume mass quantities of
certain foods must have a practical basis, however. Technologies have played a key role
in the ability of competing supermarkets to increase choices and reduce costs. Australia,
for example, saw a huge spike in chicken consumption at the end of the 20th century.
The shift was driven by the top supermarkets pushing chicken as a healthy and
convenient choice for customers (Dixon 2008). Those supermarkets were only able to
accomplish such a shift in consumption patterns through a disciplined and flexible
production chain. Electronic inventory systems, integrated ordering software with
suppliers, and just-in-time delivery schemes provide supermarkets the ability to ensure
consistent stock and profitability for perishable items like fresh meat (Dixon 2008; The
Reinvestment Fund 2011). The high organizational and technological demands placed on
suppliers by large supermarket chains has the effect of concentrating the supply chain,
though it appears that retailers have still generally managed to increase their dominance
along the food chain (Burch & Lawrence 2007).
The movement in capitalist societies toward domestic deregulation and
international regulatory impasses during the era ofneo-liberal hegemony (also
characterized by flexible accumulation) is an important backdrop for the consolidation of
retailer power. The ability of retail capital to effectively extract value from the exchange
of goods is dependent on differentiated choices. Retail capital is expanded by:
meeting publicly inspired concerns (such as all-the-year-round consumption of
previously seasonal goods, or health foods) and the rules of the state (for
example, food safety standards). The construction of the consumer interestas a
set of individual and collective concernsis directly an outcome of these
interactions. (Marsden & Wrigley 1995:1905)
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When there are loose food safety standards, supermarkets are able to provide a range of
options for one type of product (e.g., fresh chicken) for different segments of the
population. Some options are sold as cheaply as possible, while others are sold based on
higher safety or quality standards than those set by the state. Thus, while supermarkets
often emphasize the quality of their products, this is a marketing tactic made easier by
regulations with low safety and quality expectations (Konefal et al. 2005). Such
segmentation of consumers into abilities to pay for quality or cultural distinction is a
feature of post-Fordist society, based on new technologies and relaxed state regulations
(Johnston 2008). Because retailers are expected to regulate themselves based on
consumer demands, supermarkets are able to selectively appropriate those demands that
provide opportunity for profit (McMichael & Friedmann 2007).
The primary mechanism in the sharp uptick in retail dominance of the food chain
has been horizontal integration. Kroger has a long history of buying out smaller regional
grocery chains in order to penetrate new markets (Progressive Grocer 2013). If the chain
has customer loyalty already built up in the local market, the name of the stores does not
change. This has enabled Kroger to rapidly fold new stores into their expanding
economy of scale. Another benefit to a horizontal growth strategy is that it spreads risks
and liabilities across more stores and markets. Vertical integration, on the other hand, is
a more risky strategy, as the same organization will own more liability up the supply
chain (Cox & Chicksand 2007). However, many retailers, especially Kroger2, have still
pursued this strategy as well by developing private label brands and building processing
2 Krogers private labels include Simple Truth, Private Selection, Kroger, banner brands,
Value, Big K, Fresh Selections, Comforts for Baby, Home Sense, and Pet Pride.
22


facilities. Vertical integration provides either a higher profit margin or the ability to
undercut the competition, and as such is very attractive, if risky.
Most of the literature on supermarket dominance of supply chains comes out of
Europe (Hughes 1996; Lowe & Wrigley 1996; Cox & Chicksand 2007; and Hughes
2007) and Australia/New Zealand (Marsden & Wrigley 1995; Marsden & Wrigley 1996;
Burch & Lawrence 2007; Dixon 2007; Lawrence & Burch 2007; Dixon 2008; and
Campbell 2009). This could be because American supermarket chains have been slower
to consolidate the market. Kroger, for example, only had 5.8% of the market in 1992
(Hughes 1996), but it now has 11% (The Reinvestment Fund 2011). Additionally, the
supermarket model was developed in America in the early 20th century, and is thus more
normalized than in Europe, where the supermarket model had difficulties expanding post-
WWII until around the 1980s (Burch & Lawrence 2007). Konefal et al. (2007) traces
the origin of U.S. concentration to the aggressive move by Wal-Mart into the grocery
sector in the mid-90s. Wal-Marts push began in rural markets, but has since moved to
urban and suburban areas. Their large volume purchasing from suppliers and inventory
management partnerships with suppliers has led to sharp competition in America, forcing
companies like Kroger to pursue a larger economy of scale. By 2004, the top five grocers
took 48.3% of the U.S. market (Konefal et al. 2007), and manufacturers paid $9 billion in
slotting fees in 2003 for shelf access in supermarkets (Burch & Lawrence 2007). The
Great Recession has only intensified retail competition, as household grocery spending
fell 3.1% between 2008 and 2011, adjusted for inflation (Food Marketing Institute 2012).
Wal-Mart, as a massive international corporation with thousands of hypermarkets,
dominates the American grocery sector. However, other American supermarkets have
23


largely escaped study, possibly because they are typically not international players. Even
Kroger, which is the largest dedicated supermarket company in the U.S., has stores in
only 31 states. Yet, Kroger was still the eighth largest grocer in the world in 2011 (Planet
Retail 2012), and the likely Albertsons-Safeway merger in late 2014 by Cerberus Capital
Management (Rubin 2014) will further consolidate the U.S. market. The following study
moves toward filling this gap in research on how American supermarkets relate to
agrifood supply chains.
Supermarket chains, in order to survive, must do what they can to sell items
cheaper than their competitors, try to increase the profit margin on products sold
through marketing techniques, encourage consumers to increase consumption habits,
impart brand loyalty on the customer, and, as always, lower labor costs (Ripsam et al.
2010). The competitive nature of grocery retail and the highly advanced technologies
now available for inventory control, create the ever-expanding need for a larger
economy of scale (Lawrence & Burch 2007). Thus, horizontal expansion in the
market is a key piece of resiliency, and has led to monopsonistic markets, with many
producers and few retailers (Burch & Lawrence 2007).
The growing economies of scale have also allowed for more vertical
integration, including purchasing directly from suppliers rather than the open market,
and the expansion of private labels to target specific groups of consumers (Burch &
Lawrence 2007; Konefal et al. 2007). This has accelerated during the Great Recession
as consumers are less willing to spend money for name brands, or for eating out (Food
Marketing Institute 2012). As a result, large retailers blur the boundaries between
production and distribution through their direct and indirect influence over product
24


development (Dixon 2008:105). This translates to a growing importance of standards
for safety and ethics set by large grocers, which represent a form of epistemic
knowledge, intended to override the kinds of practical, local knowledge long
employed in food production and trade (Freidberg 2007:321). Bigger grocers also
translate to the aggressive pursuit of new and niche products with flexible labor
practices and production technologies (Christopherson 1996; Burch & Lawrence
2007).
Horizontal and vertical integrations have led to some interesting trends. Retail
capital accumulation is essentially tied to customer purchasing decisions at the point of
exchange. This, coupled with The dependence of larger retailers on a large market
share means that even a small change in consumer purchasing habits can have
significant affects on profitability (Konefal et al. 2007:284). As a result,
supermarkets are sensitive to, and encouraging of, ethical consumer discourse, which
politicizes shopping (Johnston 2008). Supermarkets who sell a way of life, however,
must sell a lifestyle that supports the continued capital accumulation for the retailer
(Dixon 2008).
Discourse
The word discourse does not indicate some specific theory or concept. Instead,
it points toward the realm within which language and ideology interact (Thompson
1984). Social scientists interested in discourse, then, are interested in more than an
individuals cognitive linguistic faculties, and recognize the social contexts and
implications of the use of language. This disposition is generally credited to Michel
Foucaults works providing historical accounts of how different rationalities develop, and
25


on the relationship between truth and power: Each society has its regime of truth, its
general politics of truth; that is, the types of discourse it harbors and causes to function
as truth; the status of those who are charged with saying what counts as true (Foucault
1977:13). Discourse research, very generally, often studies actually occurring instances
of expression, exhibits a concern with linguistic units that exceed the limits of a single
sentence, and shows an interest in the relations between linguistic and non-linguistic
activity (Thompson 1984:8). From a sociological standpoint, ideology and frame are
two related terms with more specific theoretical development.
Ideology is a word often used as a pejorative colloquially and academically
(Thompson 1984; Oliver & Johnston 2005). Ideology can also be used neutrally to
simply denote an idea system that contains both theory and values: To study ideology,
then, is to focus on systems of ideas which couple understandings of how the world
works with ethical, moral, and normative principles that guide personal and collective
action (Oliver & Johnston 2005:192). A more critical stance looks at the diversity of
values and ethics in modern society, and focuses on the ways in which ideologies serve to
legitimate and sustain domination (Thompson 1984; Van Dijk 1995). Ideologies, then,
are sociocognitive sublimates of group interests (Van Dijk 1995), and because language
serves as an intermediary of social action, ideology is partially constitutive of what, in
our societies, is real (Thompson 1984:5). Studies often utilize ideology in a vague
manner, however, and use it interchangeably with frame, which Oliver and Johnston
(2005) argue is a different concept entirely.
For analysis of discursive elements in Kroger supermarkets, ideology is perhaps
too abstract a concept to be particularly useful. However, in the context of the corporate-
26


environmental food regime, Gimenez and Shattuck (2011) outline four broad discursive
ideological frameworks in discussing access to food. They argue neoliberal and reformist
discourses serve to reinforce the third food regime, while progressive and radical
discourses encourage fundamental resistance to it (Gimenez & Shattuck 2011).
Neoliberal discourse seeks the expansion of markets and intensification of agriculture,
while reformism argues for food security by incorporating more developmentally
sustainable practices into market relations. Progressive discourse advocates food justice
and community empowerment, while radicalism is interested in food sovereignty
(Gimenez & Shattuck 2011). This research project will identify generally where Kroger
stands ideologically in Chapter V.
Frame analysis has its origins in an Erving Goffman (1974) book. In it, he calls
frames schemata of interpretation, with which individuals perceive everyday
experiences, and which guides action. This approach is typically utilized in social
movement research (Benford & Snow 2000) and elite cultural studies (Young 2010).
Frame theory encompasses a dialectical process between individual schemata of
interpretation and interaction: it embraces both cognitive structures... and the
interactive processes of talk, persuasion, arguing, contestation, interpersonal influence,
subtle rhetorical posturing, and outright marketing that modify indeed, continually
modify the contents of interpretative frames (Oliver & Johnston 2005:190). The act of
framing is described as meaning work (Benford & Snow 2000), and includes
diagnostic, prognostic, and motivational framing tasks when applied to social movements
(Snow & Benford 1988). One way frames are developed is through contested processes
of counterframing and dynamism between frames and events (Benford & Snow 2000).
27


Importantly for this study, frames can diffuse beyond a social movement by an outside
entity through strategic selection. In other words, another organization, like a
supermarket, can actively appropriate framing references for its own purposes.
Rationalizations & Shopping
This research project uses a unique analytical scheme in order to study different
ways Kroger helps to frame the ways consumers rationalize purchasing decisions. Those
rationalizations are discussed in detail in the following sections, but they relate to the
three contextual factors for framing processes provided by Benford & Snow (2000). The
first factor is the political opportunity structure, referring in part to informal political
relations, which are currently conditioned by perceived social and environmental risks.
Secondly, cultural opportunities and constraints relate to cultural metaphors available,
which are carried out through enchantment strategies. Lastly, audience effects indicate
that frames are tailored to the intended audience. Publicly traded retail companies have
two audiences: their customers and their shareholders. In a McDonaldized society
(Ritzer 2008), both audiences operate with individualized reason.
A new analytical scheme is necessary for this research because most studies of
consumptive patterns focus on elite shopping habits, or on political implications of
shopping. This scheme offers three broad forms of rationality that encompass a wide
range of consumer and marketing justifications for shopping decisions. These
rationalities individualized reason, cosmopolitan risk, and enchantment allow for a
largely inductive analysis of how larger discourses shape, and are shaped by, both
customers and retailers. By including individualized reason and enchantment, the
scheme tracks individualized concerns and cultural trends in addition to the more
28


politically influenced cosmopolitan risk. This is important because this research looks at
Kroger, a retailer that has historically targeted customers looking for low prices. This
analytical scheme, in other words, is highly useful for analysis of a wide range of
retailers, from low-end to high-end, small to large scale, and can be used in conjunction
with analysis of capital accumulation requirements. Additionally, a broad scheme for use
on a wide range of retailers has become necessary in the era of flexible accumulation,
where ever-changing political and cultural trends are quickly capitalized on in retail
environments. Thus, trends in the political economy of consumption behaviors by
retailers can be efficiently and meaningfully tracked and compared based on the three
contexts of framing mentioned above (Benford & Snow 2000).
Individualized Reason
Max Horkheimers (1947[2004]) writing on the rise of instrumental reasoning in
all aspects of social life is part of a long conversation on rationalization in the social
sciences and humanities. He calls this process subjectivization, which operates on
subjective reason. Subjective reason is essentially concerned with means and ends, with
the adequacy of procedures for purposes more or less taken for granted and supposedly
self-explanatory (Horkheimer 1947[2004]:3). Subjective reason is presented in contrast
to justifying action based on some reasonable purpose. This concept is related to
pragmatism, instrumental reasoning, means-end rationalization, utilitarianism, and formal
rationality, even though there are certainly important distinctions among them. To
simplify matters for the purpose of this analytical scheme, I use individualized reason to
mean the rationalization of means that most effectively fulfill individualized goals, as in
value and healthfulness in the context of food. While Horkheimer (1947[2004]) is highly
29


critical of Webers pessimism, he specifically relates individualized reason to Webers
formal rationality.
In contemporary sociology, George Ritzers (2008) theory of McDonaldization
provides an updated and more nuanced version of Webers theories on bureaucratization
and formal rationality. The thesis is that the successes derived from efficiencies
pioneered by fast food restaurants have led to the spread of those operating principles
around the world and in more aspects of daily life: McDonalds has succeeded because
it offers consumers, workers, and managers efficiency, calculability, predictability, and
control (Ritzer 2008:13). For Ritzer, this thesis provides a more essential perspective
from which to think about other processes at work in society, like post-Fordism and
postmodernization. Little escapes McDonaldization, in fact, as even inefficient and
unreasonable phenomena are viewed as byproducts of rationalization (Ritzer 2008).
While such dialectical reasoning is not impeachable in itself, critique of the thesis
becomes challenging when very few and vague examples are given as to what is not
McDonaldized. The offhand examples given are mom-and-pop grocery stores, bed-and-
breakfasts, and livable communities, apparently because It is difficult to think of social
phenomena that have escaped McDonaldization totally (Ritzer 2008:20-21).
As an instrument of this analysis, McDonaldization is used to locate discursive
frames that use individualized reason for purchasing decisions. This is a novel usage of
McDonaldization, as it typically describes rationalization of production and service. The
rationalization that occurs, if indeed a purchasing decision is rationalized for the
consumer, focuses on individualized ends. These concerns are typically framed around
price, taste, health, convenience, or safety. Absent is a sense of responsibility toward
30


ecological health, social equity present or future, civic participation, or global security.
Customers, in fact, expect retailers to service their wants and needs. In a competitive
retail sector, customers have the option to shop elsewhere if that does not occur
satisfactorily.
At the heart of McDonaldization is consumption. Consumption is what drives
economic trends. In order to attract consumers, retailers and entertainment businesses
build cathedrals of consumption (Ritzer 2010). Cathedrals include anything from fast
food restaurants, shopping malls, and superstores to cruise ships, and casinos (Ritzer
2010). The trends in the cathedrals of consumption have been emulated, for example, in
museums and megachurches. The rationalization of consumption through the cathedrals
sometimes manifests by disenchanting the experience, and other times by enchanting it.
For the purposes of this study, I will focus on individualized reason elements in
McDonaldization. McDonaldization is attractive to a wide range of people because it is
highly profitable, efficiency is valued by Americans, and it saves time for working
families (Ritzer 2008).
Cosmopolitan Risk
The social theory of cosmopolitanization provides another perspective from
which to view consumption patterns. In various literatures, cosmopolitanism involves
culture and politics. Calhoun (2002) criticizes cultural manifestations of
cosmopolitanism, discussed below, as being too cozy with capitalism and notions of
individual rights, but argues it has the potential for providing solidarity in revolutionary
praxis. Cosmopolitanism, however, can also signify a move toward purposeful reflexive
action based on objective risks.
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Ulrich Beck (1992) views cosmopolitanism as a political phenomenon altering the
course of world history. His thesis is based on the notion of risk as forming the basis of
reflexive rational action in modern society. As the world becomes more interconnected
and advanced technologically, there is an increasing reality and awareness that climate
change, ecological destruction, nuclear disasters, war, financial crises, and terrorist
attacks pose fatal threats to humanity, no matter where they occur. Risk creates a basis
for cosmopolitan imagined communities (Beck 2011) that have real political
implications, more so than class-based politics (Beck 2012). A central research question
for social sciences, therefore, is how do societies deal with difference and borders under
conditions of global interdependence crises? (Beck & Sznaider 2006:19). This
analytical scheme allows for the study of that question in the context of retail marketing
and consumption decisions.
Cosmopolitan risks are objectively based concerns about sustainability,
development, and local communities. They provide a basis for purchasing products
outside of subjectivized concerns for cheapness and control. To be clear, objectively
based concerns can rely upon faulty science or on sublimated industry or political
interests via industry funded scientific institutions. However, cosmopolitan risk concerns
are not inward facing, but rather more global in focus. Cosmopolitan risks include
rainforest destruction, stagnant development, poverty, hunger, gender inequality, climate
change, nuclear power and weaponry, terrorism, species extinctions, resource extraction,
overfishing, financial crises, overpopulation, food shortages, droughts, and so on. As the
world becomes more interdependent in a globalized division of labor, and information
becomes more readily available regarding potential risks, the possibility for more
32


objectively based purpose oriented actions open up. In a supermarket, this often
manifests in packaging that highlights a commoditys socially or environmentally
sustainable features.
Enchantment
Enchantment is a basis for purchasing decisions that is culturally rationalized.
Currently, cosmopolitanism in a cultural sense represents important ways in which
many consumers can access cultural capital, and attempt to fulfill that social desire. It
essentially involves an open and tolerant engagement with global cultural diversity
(Hannerz 1990). Cosmopolitanism also affords social status to the individual that is
more experienced, adventurous and knowledgeable about other customs that may be
taboo or unimaginable at home (Hannerz 1990). An important skill, then, is the ability
to gain cultural capital by penetrating the commodity fetish that blocks knowing the
other, and to tap into versions of authenticity. Products marketed with
cosmopolitan risk discourse as socially responsible (e.g., fair trade) often provide
information about the source of the product and how it was produced, forming a
practical basis for an elite cultural repertoire (Johnston, Szabo & Rodney 2011).
Corporations have taken up branding strategies that attempt to tap into a cosmopolitan
cultural stance (Bookman 2013), but it appears that for some urban youth cultures,
branded versions of cosmopolitanism may not be authentic enough since they appeal
to such a wide audience (Michael 2013).
A hallmark of the era of flexible accumulation is the acceleration of time-space
compression (Harvey 1989), which facilitates cosmopolitan cultural activities. Due to
rapid technological advances in transportation, production and communication, time
33


and space have become less restrictive to social and economic behavior. As
consumers, individuals can pick and choose cosmopolitan-influenced identities at will
through commodities in a vending machine of ideologies (Wrenn 2012). As Harvey
(1989) notes:
the primary effect has been to emphasize the values and virtues of
instantaneity (instant andfast foods, meals, and other satisfactions) and of
disposability (cups, plates, cutlery, packaging, napkins, clothing, etc.)... It
meant more than just throwing away produced goods (creating a monumental
waste-disposal problem), but also being able to throw away values, life-styles,
stable relationships, and attachments to things, buildings, places, people, and
received ways of doing and being. (286)
The effect on consumptive habits has been a shift toward exchanging symbols and
signifiers over the commodities themselves (Harvey 1989).
The symbolic theme is also discussed by Ritzer (2010), who applies it to
consumer demands for reenchantment. Retailers use techniques of implosion and
simulation to compete based on those demands (Ritzer 2010). The argument is that the
general move toward excessive instrumental rationality in society has created a
disenchanted world that opens up a space for a reculturation, as well as repoliticization,
of consumer experiences. Cathedrals of consumption, including retailers, have created
enchantment for consumers through spectacle, extravaganzas, simulations, implosions of
the means of consumption, and implosions of time and space (Ritzer 2010). Simulations
are artificially constructed spaces and interactions that copy some other historical time or
cultural place (Ritzer 2010). In many supermarkets, there are now simulated bakeries,
fishmongers, butcher shops, and sushi bars. Further, boundaries between different types
of consumption settings are imploding (Ritzer 2010), bringing coffee shops and banks,
for example, inside supermarkets.
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CHAPTER III
METHOD
Critical Discourse Analysis
This study uses critical discourse analysis (CDA) methodology to analyze how
capital accumulation and discourses interact in the Kroger shopping experience. I use
methodology rather than method, because CDA is a topic-centered orientation in which
the researcher develops an appropriate research process to study a theoretically derived
problem (Fairclough, Mulderrig & Wodak 2011; Fairclough 2013). Discourse analysis
views discourse as a powerful force through which language and symbols play a
constitutive role in developing subjectivity (Johnston 2008). In other words, discourse
is socially constitutive as well as socially shaped (Fairclough et al. 2011:358).
Such an emphasis on semiotics has been criticized as distracting from wider
economic and technological processes, as well as being generally incoherent in the realm
of food studies (Goodman & Redclift 1991; Fine et al. 1996). However, a common
theme to critical discourse approaches is a focus on the relations between concept and
object and how those are mediated by modes of capitalist production and consumption
(Locke 2004). These capitalist mediations in discourse are especially important to power
relations in the discourse-driven era of flexible accumulation (Fairclough 2013). Thus,
CDA research presents a shared interest in the semiotic dimensions of power, injustice,
abuse, and political-economic or cultural change in society (Fairclough et al. 2011:357),
and in the hegemonic potential of language which is both referentially vague and
hortatory, when it is used by those in a position of power (373). CDA moves beyond
analysis of the mechanisms through which social reality is discursively formed by texts,
35


to focus on how discourse culturally maintains hegemonic power relations, like those
found in the corporate-environmental food regime (Johnston 2008). CDA is, therefore,
the perfect methodology for analyzing capital and discourse together.
A CDA approach is particularly adept at parsing out dialectical contradictions
between consumer and retailer, exchange and production, and consumerism and social
responsibility. This is because It is not analysis of discourse in itself as one might take
it to be, but analysis of dialectical relations between discourse and other objects, elements
or moments, as well as analysis of the internal relations of discourse (Fairclough
2013:4). Marketing tactics are often internally contradictory, as well as at odds with
actual practices of the given company, since they are typically drawn from other
organizations in the same sector. Such a reliance on common industry practices gives
companies social legitimacy beyond economic profitability, even as it creates a
disconnect between organizational marketing and operations (Meyer & Rowan 1977).
Further, customers may influence retailer decisions, but marketing also scientifically
exploits consumer desires for choice and convenience (Ritzer 2010).
Johnston (2008) utilizes a CDA approach in her study of Whole Foods Market.
Her analysis focuses on the citizen-consumer hybrid discourse employed in elite
consumption settings. She finds that the conflicting ideologies of consumerism and
citizenship are both employed to encourage increased consumption (Johnston 2008). A
similar CDA approach is used here for the case of Kroger, but the specific analytical
scheme, discussed below, is unique. A different analytical scheme has been developed in
order to study a retailer with a wider customer base than high-end retailers.
36


Data
I have selected Kroger for this case study because it is the largest dedicated
grocery chain in America (Planet Retail 2012) and accounts for 11% of the grocer
sector (Food Marketing Institute 2012). Further, it faces competition from Wal-Mart
in terms of cost and selection, and Whole Foods Market in the natural market
(Cardenal 2014). In the realm of consumer discourse, Kroger is thus both in a position
of power because of its size, and, to some degree, at the mercy of consumer discourses
centered on ethics and elite cultural values. In other words, Kroger must stay on top of
consumer trends in order to stay competitive, but its market share also affords it the
ability to create and redirect customer desires through widespread marketing.
The data gathered for this study primarily consist of texts in stores, on Kroger
websites and social media pages, in business journalism, and other relevant websites.
For journalistic sources, I utilized Google and YouTube search engines, and ProQuest
and Ebsco business databases. Additional quantitative descriptive data of Kroger sales
and financials were taken from Krogers required reporting as a publicly traded
company. The data collected include: (1) field notes from store visits; (2) textual
materials published as brochures, in-store signs, product packaging, and website
information; (3) business articles and executive interviews; and (4) business financials.
I conducted research visits to King Soopers supermarket locations in the
Denver, Colorado, metropolitan area over the span of a four month period from
December, 2013 to April, 2014. King Soopers has its headquarters in Denver, but is
owned and operated by Kroger. Its website, for example, is identical to Krogers, but
with a King Soopers logo in the upper left comer instead of a Kroger logo. My
37


purpose for the research visits was to study how Kroger constructs a particular
shopping experience that contributes to the larger discourse, and constitutes the
consumer (Johnston 2008:234, in reference to Whole Foods Market). This is a vital
component in the study of how discourse and capital influence the supermarket
experience. I visited four separate locations a minimum of four times each. One of
those had been recently drastically remodeled, another was recently built brand new in
the same style as the remodeled store, while the other two had not been updated in
many years. While I did not find publicly published information regarding exact
numbers of remodeled King Soopers stores, I estimate between 20 to 30 King Soopers
and City Market stores have been built or remodeled in Colorado within the last six
years3. Company-wide, Kroger spent $1.07 billion on construction and remodels, and
remodeled 117 locations in 2012 (Kroger 2013c).
This study is limited in scope in several ways. The four months in which data
were collected limits the breadth of information analyzed. Further, by using a case
study of just one company, it is possible that some of the trends found in Kroger are
isolated to Kroger. Research trips to Kroger supermarkets were also confined to King
Soopers stores in the Denver, Colorado, metropolitan area. There may be subtle
regional variations among Kroger stores that affect the findings. A potential criticism,
then, is that the data presented may not be representative. However, these concerns
are relatively minor considering the purpose of the study, and given the extensive
31 used location finder search fields from Murrays Cheese Shop and JFE Franchising,
Inc., web pages, as well as Google search for Colorado news of King Soopers and City
Market remodels and construction projects, for cross referencing.
38


information found on Krogers numerous websites and social media presence, and in
the business press.
The CDA approach involves collecting a wide range of types of data from
various sources that can be analyzed in a meaningful way for tensions and
contradictions. In studying how discourse and capital influence the Kroger shopping
experience, CDA enables a targeted analysis of the data based on the analytical
scheme, rather than attempt to reconstruct some exhaustive and likely nonexistent
coherent narrative put forth by Kroger. In other words, the findings will show if
Kroger exhibits individualized, political, and cultural discourse framing in its
marketing and branding tactics, and how it does so. Those findings can be juxtaposed
with business strategies and priorities for capital accumulation. The end result will be
able to empirically discuss how seriously Kroger takes various discourses, how they
appropriate and influence those discourses, and to what extent they are likely to
influence future business decisions.
Analytical Scheme
For the purpose of locating tensions and contradictions within the shopping
experience, this paper utilizes an analytical scheme with three forms of rationality for
shopping decisions: (1) individualized reason; (2) cosmopolitan risk; and (3)
enchantment. The three levels of rationality are presented merely as ideal types for the
purpose of analysis. Both the consumer and the discourse employed in marketing may
frame decisions utilizing multiple levels. The purpose of the scheme is to find
potential contradictory tensions in supermarket discourse, and to present the discursive
frames in conjunction with the necessities of capital accumulation.
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CHAPTER IV
KROGER FINDINGS
Kroger Operations & Business Strategies
Kroger presents itself as a responsible company that cares about customers and
communities. Its Customer 1st strategy, for example, has proven very successful
over the last 10 plus years (Kroger 2013d). Their multi-tiered brand strategy, in which
Kroger offers separate private labels for different segments of the consumer market,
has helped it stay profitable through recent economic turbulence by offering cheap
food, while also targeting consumer preferences in niche and elite markets. About
40% of their over 12,000 private label items are made in their own processing facilities
(Kroger 2013c), a relatively high percentage in the supermarket sector (Konefal et al.
2007). In-house production cuts out middlemen along the supply and distribution
chain that cut into retailer profits. This represents a clear competitive advantage for
Kroger, made possible by its economy of scale.
Krogers economy of scale comes from its long history of horizontal expansion
in addition to its vertical integration. Kroger bought over one hundred Piggly Wiggly
stores and over ninety Roanoke Grocery & Millings stores in the 1920s, three grocery
chains in 1955, Market Basket in 1963, merged with Dillon grocery stores (including
King Soopers, City Market, and Frys) in 1983, and merged with Fred Meyer in 1999
(including Ralphs, QFC, and Smiths) (Progressive Grocer 2013). While there have
been many store closures and sell offs sprinkled through Krogers history, the general
trend has been to enter new markets through mergers and acquisitions, especially since
the mid-90s (Konefal et al. 2007). In 2013, Kroger bought the Southeastern upscale
40


grocery chain Harris Teeter for $2.44 billion (Jargon & Gasparro 2013), the first large
buy since 1999, when it merged with Northwest-based Fred Meyer hypermarkets.
As a publicly traded company, Krogers ultimate responsibility is to its
shareholders. Kroger openly states that its Customer 1st strategy and mult-tier
private label approach are designed to maximize shareholder value (Kroger 2013c).
Its financial goals include, to
Achieve solid, steady identical sales growth... Pay a dividend on a quarterly
basis, with expectations of growing the dividend over time... Increase capital
investments by $200 million each year for several years... to support the
Companys goal of continual market share growth... [and] Generate a return
on invested capital that increases over time. (Kroger 2013c:53)
In other words, the customer base must always expand in order to meet its obligations
to shareholders. Krogers business plan is not to be an exclusive retail destination, but
to continually expand its market share. Yet, Kroger also presents itself as an industry
leader in sustainability and as a responsive provider of consumer demands. David
Dillon, the former CEO, says Were trying to apply our values to serving our
customers. The results speak for themselves. Good ethics is good business (Watkins
2014). Krogers practice is to expand choices to match new demands in order to stay
as profitable as possible. The new CEO, Rodney McMullen, says I am excited to
lead our efforts to build on Krogers market position and competitive advantages to
drive value for our shareholders and to strengthen our deep connection with our great
associates, our millions of customers and the communities we call home (Kroger
2013d). Kroger seems to have it all: value for shareholders, choice for customers,
environmental stewardship, and ethical business practices. The following sections
show the different forms of rationalization found in Krogers consumer experience.
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Individualized Reason Results
In the 1990s we went through lots of trauma, we were losing ground, and as a retailer, if
you re losing ground that means you re becoming less relevant with the customer, and
we had to face that music at some point. David Dillon, then CEO and Chairman of the
Board of Directors (KU Business 2013)
In order to gain trust and brand loyalty, retailers need to build efficiency,
calculability, predictability, and control for customers. In other words, the kind of
rationalized and convenient shopping experience developed through McDonaldization
(Ritzer 2008). Supermarkets provide a plethora of options so that consumers can use
individualized reason to control the food entering their households. The expectations
of customers at least those willing to voice their displeasure online are evident
from this small sample of numerous complaints on King Soopers Facebook page:
Can someone explain to me how this has happened to us twice in the last month?
BUGS in our simple truth lettuce. Never shopping at Ks again.
If your plastic bags are so thin you cant carry a glass jar of spaghetti sauce
without it tearing and then breaking the jar you shouldn 7 offer them at all!
cocktail shrimp seafood shop, from 7.99 to 10.99 in one and a half months.
Ridiculous.
Sunday 7am bennett king soopers NO DONUTS out... baker standing there
racks of donuts but none boxed, a dozen customers waiting when I ask why there
is no donuts his reply is whomever is working overslept... Ok I know thats
beyond his control but HELLO mr high n mighty baker there is no I in team!
(King Soopers 2014d)
These customer complaints exhibit the individualized rationality of customers that cannot
be ignored by retailers wishing to compete in a highly competitive market. The
following are results found in Kroger marketing and operations that exhibit how it brands
itself to customers on the basis of those expectations for convenience and choice.
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Efficiency and convenience are ubiquitous in Krogers marketing of products
and services. The framing often encourages the notion that cooking is difficult and too
time consuming, and that Kroger wants to make feeding family and friends easier:
Planning an Easter brunch doesnt have to be difficult. Your time is valuable, so
leave the cooking to us, and order your brunch online; When it comes to preparing
snacks suited to serve a small gathering, which is easer: slaving in the kitchen all day
or ordering a few delicious Party Pans?; Sometimes we just dont have the time to
prepare a gourmet meal. In those cases, we opt for convenience!; and The hustle
and bustle of the holidays may be over, but we know the parties are endless. Were
here to make things easier for you. Order a party platter online (King Soopers
2014d). Notice the description of cooking as slaving and difficult, and the
sympathetic tone taken with the pronoun we. The implication is that Kroger is on
the side of busy people. King Soopers stores offer a free seafood preparation service
called Easy for you!, in which the customer chooses a species of fish and a
seasoning blend, and the store employee prepares it all in an oven safe bag. The
service even offers advice for what foods and wines go with fish and seasoning
combinations. The selling point is that it offers a healthy, simple, and delicious meal:
We season and seal it. You take it and bake it! (King Soopers 2014c).
Kroger stores also provide customers with a lot of calculability. Calculability
is the value placed on the quantitative aspects of products sold (portion size, cost) and
services offered (the time it takes to get the product) (Ritzer 2008:14). King Soopers
stores certainly emphasize the low prices and quick shopping that they offer, and
provide customers enrolled in loyalty programs with targeted coupons to their habits.
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Kroger also provides quantified nutritional information on every product. Each shelf
tag includes a NuVal score, between 1-100, which lets the consumer now how healthy
the product is. NuVal is an independently developed algorithm developed by nutrition
scientists, and is licensed by Kroger. As a large presence in the food retail market,
Kroger is pushing nutrition discourse toward quantifying and calculating nutrition for
everyone, rather than emphasize the personal nature of health. Kroger presents the
NuVal system as a way to quickly and quantifiably improve the individuals or
familys health: One glance is all it takes... the higher the score, the better the
nutrition! (Kroger 2014a). Personal responsibility is also emphasized in store signs:
Wellness is a choice... take charge of your health; and Responsible choices today
leads to better living tomorrow! While Kroger offers thousands of cheap unhealthful
options, it is the customers responsibility to choose wisely. Thus, Krogers role in
society is to provide as many options as possible and to educate the consumer, but it is
ultimately up to the consumer to make the right decision.
Predictability is another important dimension of McDonaldization, and
provides the customer with the ability to rely on certain products to be the same
between stores. A major avenue to accomplish this is through the multiple private
label lines found in all Kroger stores. Products labeled with the Value brand are
predictably some of the cheapest options available: Our value brands allow
Customers on a tight budget to discover the basics at budget-friendly prices throughout
the store. Stretching your budget can sometimes make all the difference to help you
buy more of what you need (Kroger 2014g). Again, Kroger is sympathetic and
helpful for individuals struggling with a tight budget. For consumers willing and able
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to spend more money for natural and organic labeled products, all they have to do is
find the Simple Truth label: You wanted a simpler way to shop for organic and
natural products in our stores. The result? Simple Truth (Kroger 2014f). Kroger is
responding to the expanding consumer demand for organic and natural foods. Kroger
is the second biggest retailer of natural foods and is aggressively expanding this piece
of their business. CEO Rodney McMullen says, we can easily see how that business
could double from where we are today... We actually have a pretty good plan in place
that will get us significantly along the way on getting there in a reasonable period of
time (Kraft 2013). The remodeled King Soopers stores include greatly expanded
produce departments and organic sections, as well as more freezer space for processed
natural foods. This represents a good example of how a discourse like valuing
natural and organic food can create a consumer demand that can rapidly impact
production practices.
The final dimension of McDonaldization is control. Kroger provides control
for the consumer in a number of ways, but one way is to provide information that
simplifies decision making in a store with 50,000 options. Krogers private label for
baby products, Comforts for Baby, gives its consumers a sense of control over their
babys nutrition and development, through its highly scientific and controlled
products: We care about quality, so our products are tested by pediatricians and
dermatologists to make sure they perform just right for you and your baby. Our wide
selection of high-quality formulas have all the nutrients your baby needs for a healthy
first year (Kroger 2011). The emphasis here is on the performance of the product to
enable the family goal of controlling the development process of children. An in store
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pamphlet, Seafood and MethylmercuryWhat You Need to Know (Kroger 2014d),
gives customers firm advice regarding who should avoid which species of fish, and
which seafood products can be relied upon to be safe. This information gives the
customer the confidence to feel they have control over a potentially serious toxin.
Additionally, Kroger offers the Simple Truth line of products that is free from 101
specified artificial ingredients, for customers concerned with toxic additives. One
customer complained on King Soopers (2014d) Facebook page about a specific
ingredient found in some Kroger products, and this was the response: We understand
that some customers prefer foods that do not contain [azodicarbonamide] and
encourage them to look for our Simple Truth and Simple Truth Organic product lines,
which are free from many of the artificial preservatives and ingredients including
ADA that some customers told us they dont want in their foods. Again, the
emphasis is on the customers responsibility to control what ingredients he or she
wants in their food.
Signs of individualized reason are everywhere in King Soopers stores. These
marketing and branding tactics are aided by innovations in checkout technologies,
production practices, distribution and inventory systems, and private supply
regulations. The highly competitive supermarket sector has pushed companies like
Kroger to aggressively pursue these strategies in order to maintain customer loyalty.
The expansion of choice and increased predictability align with the logic of retail
capital. Retailers gain market share by providing and encouraging profitable choices
for consumers. We move now to cosmopolitan risk, which is potentially a more
problematic discourse for supermarkets to employ.
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Cosmopolitan Risk Results
What we are is a collection of372,000 associates that are helping make the world a
better place everyday... everyday thats what our company does. Rodney McMullen,
CEO (Economics Center 2014)
Employing cosmopolitan risk discourse provides an opportunity to expand both
the monetary value of specific products on the shelf, and the brand value of Kroger.
Kroger also shows an awareness of their own legal risks in relation to fresh water sources
for their bottled water when it states, Drinking water, including bottled water, may
reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants. The
presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate that water poses a health risk
(King Soopers 2014a). Thus, Kroger both markets to risks, and adjusts its behavior with
risks in mind. The following are examples of how Kroger frames social and
environmental risks to its customers.
Sustainability is a popular phrase today that retail businesses have a lot of
interest in appropriating onto its products and brand. Kroger has a 69-page 2013
sustainability report online, for example, titled Sustainability: Improving today to
protect tomorrow, featuring a tree in the logo (Kroger 2013 a). The way Kroger
frames its move toward more sustainable practices is telling regarding retail capital:
Our customers interest in buying products with a more positive social and
environment impact continues to grow. Therefore, Kroger continues to expand its
natural, organic and eco-friendly product choices (Kroger 2013a: 15). Discourses
regarding environmental and social risks have provided a market niche for Kroger to
capitalize on. Kroger does not claim to be leading customers, nor does it claim to be
changing the product choices they already have. It is instead increasing consumptive
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choices: Enabling Customer Sustainability Through Choice (Kroger 2013a: 15).
This is exhibited in the way Kroger frames its Simple Truth line: Are you going
green? Do you eat green foods? Are you being earth friendly? We can help you;
and Simple Truth also aids in our efforts to be green for earths sake (Kroger 2014f).
Kroger is encouraging a consumer ethic for those resolving to do something about
environmental degradation, and frames those decisions as our efforts. Thus, Kroger
wants the customer to think of Kroger as a helpful partner in developing
environmentally conscious action. Expanding choices for consumers, however, is
fundamentally contradictory to the spirit of sustainability. This strategy of providing
more options manifests itself, for example, in the expanding square footage of King
Soopers stores in Colorado, as they are remodeled: We see the opportunity for better
serving the community with more square footage, said a King Soopers project
manager (Woullard 2013). Rather than take valid environmental concerns seriously
enough to try to alter product selection, whole existing production lines and supply
chains, new product lines are simply added that can be marketed as sustainable. In
this sense, Kroger now propagates the contradictory idea that sustainability can be
achieved through increased consumption in much the same way that Whole Foods
Market has been doing for many years (Johnston 2008).
Kroger pushes the notion that shopping there helps support natural systems of
production and consumption. A prime example is King Soopers plastic bags offered at
checkout. They feature a logo that reads Earth Sound, a claim impossible to rectify on
a material so copious through the store and so damaging to ecosystems even with
marginal recycling in production and disposal. Additionally, Simple Truth Organic items
48


apparently use production standards that foster the recycling of resources, promote
ecological balance and help conserve biodiversity (Kroger 2013a: 15). Thus, the
consumer can increase consumption while saving the environment and eating healthier.
The framing of Simple Truth products also utilizes an ethic of naturalness as opposed to
food science: Cook up something fresh and simple with one of these recipes featuring
Simple Truth and Simple Truth Organic products. They taste as delicious as they look -
and theyre closer to what nature intended (Kroger 2014f). This example seems to
imply that other food processors are meddling with what nature already provides to the
detriment of consumers. However, a lawsuit has been filed against Kroger alleging that
Simple Truth fresh chicken labels are deceptive, and that the chickens are raised
according to standard industry practices (Huffstutter 2014). Conventionally labeled and
priced chicken products are still offered, so customers have the choice to pick and
choose when they want to purchase a more expensive product that is supposedly better
for the animals and environment.
Kroger has moved toward only offering sustainable options on its shelves in its
seafood department. A statement promoting this move was posted on the King
Soopers (2014d) Facebook page, and the same text was used for an in-store
announcement over the intercom system during a research visit: For Earth month,
were celebrating fresh, sustainable wild caught seafood. At King Soopers, were
taking steps to ensure the variety of fish you enjoy today is available for future
generations. This framing makes it sound as if King Soopers is an active agent for
long-term environmental responsibility. Its stated goal is to source 100% of the most
popular 20 species of its wild-caught seafood from Marine Stewardship Council
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(MSC) certified suppliers by 2015. Kroger is also working toward sourcing its farmed
fish from suppliers that rate on the Global Aquaculture Alliances Best Aquaculture
Practices scale by 2015. Further, Kroger is actively supporting a number of Fishery
Improvement Projects in cooperation with [the World Wildlife Fund] (Kroger 2014e).
Their latest public assessment places them at 68% of their goal (Kroger 2013a). The
move toward sourcing seafood from more sustainable sources is laudable, and carries
real weight, considering the size of Kroger. This is a prime example of the potential
power that retail capital carries: in order to access Krogers 11% of the American
retail market, suppliers must conform to less damaging practices.
As retail capital accumulation dictates, however, Kroger has a real need to
ensure reliable supplies of seafood for its customers. The question becomes, can
Kroger satisfy the requirements of capital to always expand, adhere to strict
sustainability standards, and ensure supply of fresh seafood for more and more
customers? A critical analysis must answer no, as the health of the oceans continues
to deteriorate. The MSC has come under heavy criticism for its quick certification of
suppliers without adequate information regarding fishing practices or fish stocks
(Zwerdling & Williams 2013). It appears that retail capitals appetite for certified
sustainable seafood has already led to severe slippage in standards. Wal-Mart was
the first large retailer to commit to increasing MSC certified fish in 2006, and other
retailers like Kroger followed suit. Since then, seven times as many fisheries have
been certified sustainable by the MSC versus the same period prior (Zwerdling &
Williams 2013). In fact, the MSC does not certify fisheries themselves; rather
fisheries must pay a private certification company to conduct the audit. Out of 210
50


applications, only 10 fisheries have been rejected, and certification is often awarded
with merely the promise to change practices or provide relevant data 5 years down the
road (Zwerdlign & Williams 2013). Clearly, tensions exist between retailers move
toward expanding ethical consumption and the ability to harvest seafood in a truly
sustainable way.
Kroger prides itself on reducing energy use, trash, and wasted food. Through
use of LED motion-sensor lighting and other energy efficient technologies, Krogers
carbon footprint in 2012 was 4.85% less than 2011 (Kroger 2013a). Additionally,
wind turbines and solar panels have been installed at some facilities, and one
distribution center produces its own biogas for some of its energy use (Kroger 2013a).
In 2012, Krogers manufacturing plants reduced water usage by 27 million gallons
from 2011 (Kroger 2013a). Through an efficient food donations program, recycling,
and food composting, Kroger is aiming to divert at least 90% of its waste from
landfills, and was already at 58% in 2012 (Kroger 2013a). These sorts of resource
efficient programs make a lot of sense for businesses concerned with input and energy
costs. Assuming the numbers are not outrageously inflated or misleading, the
programs set in place and the results derived from Krogers efforts to increase
efficiencies and reduce wasted energy and food are impressive, and exhibit a real
social benefit to sustainable branding strategies.
Finally, Kroger presents itself as a company that supports both local community
development and international development. King Soopers produce department signs, for
example, claim Weve supported local farmers for over 60 years. By we the sign
means King Soopers before and after its merger with Kroger, but left unstated is what
51


supported indicates exactly, as the majority of the produce found in King Soopers stores
are not from Colorado, and often from outside the U.S. Additionally, King Soopers
states, Colorado Proud: Good for you, Good for Colorado; and Buying Colorado not
only supports our statewide economy, but also means healthier consumer products!
(King Soopers 2014b). Kroger also claims it has a positive impact on the communities
in which we operate, through jobs and capital investments, as well as its support of over
30,000 schools and community organizations (Kroger 2013a:56-57). An example of
community organizations it supports is food banks, for which it states, The Kroger
family of stores is committed to helping families put fresh, wholesome food on their
tables every day (Kroger 2013b). The emphasis on the word family carries forth to
how Kroger traces its history of philanthropy: When Barney Kroger began donating
loaves of bread to the poor each week in the early days of his business, Krogers long
history of fighting hunger in communities it serves was bom. Nearly 130 years later, the
Kroger family of stores is still leading the fight to help local families struggling to put
food on their tables (Kroger 2013b). Further, Kroger positions itself as morally on par
with the customer for its responsibilities to hungry families: Whether dropping spare
change into specially-marked coin canisters, purchasing nonperishable food for in-store
food drives, or adding a small donation to your local food bank to your bill, it all adds up
to a shared goal neighbors helping neighbors (Kroger 2013b). The implication is that
Kroger is just another neighbor in a local community trying to coordinate help for other
neighbors in need. However, in 2012 alone it spent $1.5 billion on shareholder dividends
and buybacks, as well as $2 billion on capital projects. Kroger donated $48.5 million to
non-profit organizations, in addition to donating $5.9 million to breast cancer awareness,
52


and $3.3 million to the USO (Kroger 2013a). Left unstated is that those billions of
dollars in profit are extracted from local communities and distributed as Kroger
executives see fit. Instead of lowering prices, paying suppliers more, or paying their
workers more, Kroger gets to decide how much money they want to donate and reinvest
each year, while local grocers, if any are left, feel the weight of Krogers economy of
scale. Yet, Kroger frames its companys past and present activities as working against
hunger.
With respect to global development, Kroger says it has more than doubled the
number of Fair Trade Certified products it carries over a few years (Kroger
2013a: 17). It is unclear what the base amount was, and it has focused on coffee, tea
and chocolate products, i.e. luxury items. This is an easy branding tactic for Kroger
that has little clear impact on actual global systems of labor (Hughes 2007). A quick
trip to King Soopers reveals that one of the most conspicuous examples of fair trade
items are the numerous options of individually wrapped 12-packs of single-cup Keurig
fair trade coffee products, from Green Mountain Coffee and the Simple Truth line.
These are certified by Fair Trade USA, which departed from the Fair Trade
International coalition in late 2011 in order to loosen rules specifically for coffee
certification (Fair Trade Vancouver 2011). In fact, the King Soopers closest to my
house features a section of Keurig products 10 feet long and seven shelves high. The
fair trade items only add about a 50 cent premium to the non-certified options, which
certainly makes them affordable for most consumers, but the convenience of sing-
serve wrapping is wildly wasteful of natural resources. Krogers Private Selection line
of coffee, which is not packaged single-serve, does come with a Rainforest Alliance
53


certification, but only for 40% of the beans. Retail capital accumulation, again,
appears to have led to slippage in standards for sustainability, in service of providing
choice and convenience for shoppers.
Enchantment Results
Sushi is different from other perishables. Its show business. JFE Franchising, Inc.
(JFE 2014)
The addition of monetary value through symbolic enchantment is not clearly
observed in older King Soopers stores, nor is it explicitly stated as a strategy in the
business press or company press releases. However, it is worth noting that all of the
King Soopers stores remodeled in the last six years exhibit a move toward enchanted
simulations, and Krogers Private Selection line of products feature many enchantment
buzzwords. The remodeled stores feature produce departments prominently labeled as
The Garden, and islands of simulated fine cheese shops and sushi bars.
Private Selection labeled products are sold as high-quality food products that are
gourmet or authentic in some way. This is the way Kroger frames this private label:
Private Selection gourmet and artisan foods are the work of years of
development, testing and practice. We source only the freshest ingredients to
bring you gourmet foods and products inspired by food artisans who hone their
craft to perfection. Our authenticity ensures culinary experiences that enliven
your sense of good taste. (Kroger 2014b)
The words gourmet, artisan, craft, authenticity, and culinary experience all point
toward a rationalized enchanted experience that the customer can access through the
experts and artisans at Private Selection. Private Selection also employs the language of
simulation, by implying they provide a similar, but improved, service of a quality local
deli: Something happens when you use only authentic, delicious ingredients. You get
something special... Inspired by old world tradition and sold exclusively at our deli
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counters, Private Selection is the 21st century version of the corner delicatessen, only
better (Kroger 2013e). An improvement over tradition is a common theme for Private
Selection frames, as this odd statement exhibits: If you havent tried Private Selection
yet, youre in for a real treat. One bite and youll see that authentic and delicious are no
longer mutually exclusive (Kroger 2013e). The improvement on traditional flavors also
includes the promise to offer culturally popular elements in their products: Our gourmet
and artisan lines continually change as food trends evolve, so you can be sure were
always offering you the best (Kroger 2014b). Private Selection products thus offer the
customers enchanted experiences at home, based on world traditions, gourmet taste, and
popular food trends.
Kroger partners with New York City based fine cheese shop Murrays in
remodeled and new stores all over the country. The cheese island employees are hired
and paid by Kroger, but trained by Murrays. As Kroger puts it, Since its founding in
1940, Murrays Cheese has been an essential part of New Yorks vibrant food scene in
Greenwich Village (King Soopers 2014e). By shopping at King Soopers, then, the
average consumer has access to a cultural encounter they would not have otherwise:
The Murrays Experience: At Murrays, youll find more than 175 cheese varieties -
from tried-and-true favorites to rare and unique discoveries (King Soopers 2014e). In
the stores, the Murrays staff members are called Cheesemasters, and culturally relevant
phrases are scattered about on signs, like stinky cheese, which challenge the customers
to be cosmopolitan enough to appreciate cheeses not widely consumed in America. The
Murrays island at the King Soopers near my house had an April in Paris theme for
April, 2014. French cheeses were highlighted and customers were encouraged to try
55


those cheeses to expand their cultural food repertoire. The consumer is given a simulated
worldly experience with knowledgeable staff and free samples for artisanal cheeses from
around the world.
The sushi islands in King Soopers, operated by JFE Franchising, Inc. (JFE),
include Asian-looking employees conspicuously working in black chef coats and caps
under signs that read, Fresh sushi made daily. The Western customer enjoys the
cosmopolitan privilege of feeling as if they are stepping into a piece of Japan during their
grocery-shopping trip, and the staff members are deemed, Your personal sushi chef.
According to JFE, customers remind each other and us every day where and for what
theyre looking. They want fresh, fun and the unconventional experience that
popularized sushi (JFE 2014). JFE places an emphasis on the simulated customer
experience it offers through its services, with marketing frames like, Weve taken sushi
back to its show business origins..Exceptional restaurant-quality sushi!; and sushi
kiosks have become vital to the transition of grocery delis to eating destinations (JFE
2014). Thus, enchanted simulations in supermarkets are not only intended to compete
with other supermarkets, but with restaurants as well. While not contradictory to retail
capital accumulation, this trend toward enchantment in Kroger supermarkets may
represent an interesting move toward utilizing enchanted rationality in retail spaces
targeted to value shoppers.
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CHAPTER V
DISCUSSION & CONCLUSIONS
Kroger Discourse
The critical discourse analysis approach utilized in this study shows that
Kroger supermarkets, to varying degrees, frames its marketing and branding strategies
across the three broad categories of rational discourse: individualized reason,
cosmopolitan risk, and enchantment. Older King Soopers stores are already highly
McDonaldized, with a very rational and scientific layout (Ritzer 2010) to ensure both
an efficient shopping trip, and to maximize opportunities for encouraging impulse
shopping. Customers are encouraged to make individualized decisions based on price,
nutritional value, taste, and so forth. Remodeled King Soopers feature convenient
drive through windows for the pharmacy, as well as more product choices with more
square footage. Meeting consumer expectations for choice and efficiency is clearly
still a major concern and point of competition for American supermarket companies.
New and updated King Soopers exhibit very strong emergent tendencies
toward framing its brand and products within cosmopolitan risk and enchantment
discourses. As a company, Kroger has aggressively pursued many programs aimed at
branding itself as a socially responsible company. This is framed within its Customer
1st strategy, meaning it wants to give the appearance that it is merely responding to
customer requests for more environmentally and socially sustainable practices.
Krogers ability within the wider contemporary discourse of sustainability to bolster its
brand through publishing reports regarding its environmental and social programs
shows the power of discourse under the current regime of capital accumulation. The
57


potential success of such a branding strategy provides a real incentive to reduce carbon
emissions and source certified-sustainable commodities. It provides the space within
which a company may use agency to begin to address environmental and social
hazards, through appealing to consumer sentiments. Remodeled King Soopers, for
example, feature larger produce sections and conspicuously efficient LED lit freezer
cases that turn on and off according to motion sensors. As Kroger approaches its goal
of sourcing fresh seafood from 3rd party certified sustainable suppliers, this will likely
become advertised more aggressively.
Kroger is clearly testing an enchanted experiences strategy with its Private
Selection label, and in remodeled King Soopers supermarkets with fine cheese and
fresh sushi experiences made available to the masses. Such cultural experiences and
in-store eating opportunities show that American supermarkets targeting value-minded
shoppers are beginning to compete based on enchantment strategies. This is
significant because, up until a few years ago, higher end grocers like Whole Foods
Market used these strategies to differentiate themselves from bigger chains. How elite
consumption patterns will shift in response to this emerging trend is an open question.
Kroger likely would not have provided many examples of enchantment or
cosmopolitan risk rationalizations only ten years ago. Wal-Mart seems to be going the
same route with its major moves into the organics market. The shift toward political
and cultural discourse employment by supermarket chains like Kroger and Wal-Mart
may have significant long term effects on a wide range of customers, as well as global
supply chains for sustainable and natural products, and culturally trendy foods.
Kroger, in other words, cannot exclude low-income and low-education customers in its
58


branding and marketing strategies since it requires a much larger customer base for its
success than a Whole Foods Market does. The successful appropriation of political
and cultural discourses by Kroger shows that those concerns about food are extending
beyond elite consumer circles, at least in part because Kroger is bringing those
discourses to its stores.
As a context for the way in which Kroger frames wider food discourse trends,
Gimenez and Shattuck (2011) provide four categories for how people argue food
systems should operate. Kroger, at its most socially conscious, operates within
reformist ideologies, which employ a cautious food security discourse and seek to
mainstream less socially and environmentally damaging alternatives into existing
market structures (Gimenez & Shattuck 2011:121). It is in large retailers best
interests to attempt to steer consumers away from community and anti-market
discourses, and it is no surprise Kroger is not seeking out communal food sovereignty
solutions to social and environmental problems in its practices or its framing of
discourse. In fact, its cosmopolitan risk framing typically encourages a consumerist,
personal choice ethic, versus highlighting some form of solidarity. It is with this
framing that Kroger ultimately removes itself from any serious social or environmental
responsibility since it is always up to the customer to make the responsible choices.
As big supermarket chains like Kroger frame marketing tactics in cosmopolitan
risk and enchantment discourses, the challenge for smaller grocers and more high-end
chains will be to continue to differentiate their brands. It is highly possible, maybe
even likely, that other supermarkets will continue to push the envelope with stricter
and stricter social, environmental, and cultural standards as the only way to
59


accomplish this task. There may even be a push toward more progressive or radical
discourses and supply chains, although Whole Foods Markets leadership, for one,
appears committed to a libertarian ideology (Johnston 2008). Perhaps a more
important trend that does not appear to be slowing anytime soon is the rapid
consolidation taking place in the supermarket sector.
Kroger Retail Capital
The rise in importance and cultural diffusion of cosmopolitan risk and
enchantment discourses lead Kroger not to rethinking their obligations and
responsibilities as a company, but to simply increasing the number of private label
brands and expanding options. Consumers, as McDonaldized rational subjects, clearly
value convenience and choice, and Kroger has shown itself to be perfectly willing to
capitalize on these tendencies with the instances highlighted in this paper of wasteful
packaging and overstated claims of social and environmental responsibility. Further,
the ultimate business goal of continuous sales growth and expansion of market share
leads to marketing tactics that both employ political and cultural discourses, while also
aggressively encouraging increased consumption for the customers.
While discourse can be framed in creative and malleable ways, capital must
always expand. Discourse can have a real impact on business practices, but discourse
cannot transform the nature of capital, which must always overcome barriers to its
accumulation. For example, cosmopolitan risks associated with climate change have
led to a sustainability discourse that Kroger can employ within its branding strategy
through reducing its environmental impacts. The increases in efficiency have the
added bonus of reducing energy inputs for Kroger. Climate change, however, is
60


partially fueled by overconsumption in advanced capitalist societies. Kroger cannot
satisfy its obligations to its shareholders by encouraging consumers to reduce their
consumption patterns to levels the planet could sustain for all people. The expansion
of options for customers and the encouragement to buy more, in short, is
fundamentally contradictory to true sustainability. Additionally, retailers have an
interest in making customers feel good about purchasing decisions. Retailers have a
real incentive to exaggerate in its framing of discourses, and consumers should be
highly skeptical of all claims to sustainability or social responsibility.
An important finding of this research with respect to the rise of supermarket
horizontal integration over large food processors is the emergence of experience
vendors in Kroger within the last few years. Murrays cheese company and JFE are
two very rapidly expanding companies that operate within Kroger stores not as food
processors, but as noncompetitive vendors that offer cultural experiences for
customers. Thus far, Murrays has only partnered with Kroger in this venture.
However, in addition to Kroger stores, JFE also operates in university campuses,
Sprouts Farmers Market, Albertsons, Costco, Carrefour (French supermarket chain),
and Coles (Australia supermarket chain) (JFE 2014). JFE only entered King Soopers
stores in 2012, so the long-term implications are unclear. Yet, with razor thin
supermarket profit margins, grocers could become reliant upon similarly successful
experience vendors. It is difficult to imagine a situation where such vendors have
significant power over supermarkets and a range of supply chains, but they could
further enable large supermarket chains like Kroger to force out smaller grocers that
cannot compete in offering culturally relevant experiences.
61


U.S. Supermarkets & the Food Regime
As a critical study, this paper attempts to shed some light on how consumptive
patterns in American supermarkets relate to worldwide systems of agricultural
production and distribution. This is a difficult task, but an essential piece is how food
standards are regulated. The current food regime trend toward private regulation of
food safety, sustainability, and quality is a crucial piece to how American
supermarkets are able to offer differentiated products for various niches. Private
regulation of food standards
involves selective appropriation by food corporations of social movement
demands for environmental, food safety, animal welfare andfair trade
relations, with the potential of deepening social inequality globally (at the
expense ofpeasants and poor consumers) as private regulation displaces
public responsibilities. (McMichael & Friedmann 2007:306, quotedfrom
McMichael forthcoming)
As this study has demonstrated, the appropriation of demands for quality and socially
responsible products occur within an individualized rational context. Supermarkets
compete in quantity of selection and the reliability that those tens of thousands of
products will always be in stock. Price competition is always salient, as suppliers and
distributers are pushed to reduce costs. The burden on agri-food sectors in other
countries to supply American supermarkets is high.
Consumption habits in America, and other wealthy countries, must also be
placed in the context of the global currency and financial system. The worldwide
neoliberal regime operates through dependency on the viability of the U.S. dollar, and
on the freedom of financial capital to flow from Wall Street and London, for example,
to where it can profit. Structural adjustment programs over the last 30 years have been
induced and intensified by financialization. This process has dispossessed peasants of
62


their land and livelihoods the world over. One result has been an inexpensive
cornucopia of food in U.S. supermarkets, and increased consumption of low-quality
processed food for the developing world: The dispossessed and the very poor must
buy, if they can, edible commodities very different both from what used to be
available in local or national food systems, and from the quality meals offered to
elites in all countries (McMichael & Friedmann 2007:293).
Kroger does not promote the notion that purchasing decisions can provide a
more equitable global food system. King Soopers stores do emphasize their Colorado
products in grocery and produce as a way for shoppers to support local producers.
Kroger also has a food donations program that drastically reduces food wastes from
their stores (Kroger 2013a). From a food regimes perspective, such localized
marketing and donations do not contribute to the food regime, but neither do they
transform it. More saliently, some King Soopers produce departments sport signs that
read, Healthy food that promotes a healthy planet! This message, alongside many
large pictures of Colorado farmers in their fields, rest above produce from all over the
U.S. and Latin America, as well as small portions of greens packaged in plastic from
huge firms like Dole. The framing of health food as also good for the planet has clear
tensions with the realities of the global food regime.
The ecological contradictions within the current food regime will become more
and more apparent as climate change accelerates and monoculture export agriculture
becomes increasingly difficult and expensive. Importantly, The ability of firms to
mobilise labour and get crops from fields depends on social and natural conditions
outside the purview of what can be incorporated into green or ethical commodities
63


(McMichael & Friedmann 2007:295). A shade grown coffee bean product from a fair
trade source may be socially and environmentally preferable to the alternative, but the
production process may still not be ultimately locally socially or environmentally
sustainable.
An essential element of the corporate-environmental food regime is the
financialization that has occurred within the wider neoliberal global economy. Many
retailers are now acting with financialization in reverse (Burch & Lawrence 2009),
and Kroger is no exception. Kroger Real Estate leases shopping center spaces next to
Kroger stores, and sells off other properties. Its website states, Kroger Real Estate is
committed to recycling its outgrown locations with new users, and working with the
communities in which we serve to ensure that our closed locations are left in good
hands for the future (Kroger 2014c). The opening up of a real estate division or
separate company is a common practice by private equity companies. In the older
King Soopers stores visited, the customer service desk is featured prominently as the
customer enters the store. A large banner hangs in the entrance advertising its money
services, which include check-cashing, money wiring services, and bill paying. Such
banking services open up opportunities for extracting interest from cash-strapped
customers. In fact, these older stores are in less affluent neighborhoods than the
updated ones, which place the customer service desk in a less conspicuous location.
Conclusions
In the highly competitive American supermarket sector, market consolidation
has increased dramatically since the mid 1990s, and small shifts in consumer tastes
have big affects on success (Konefal et al. 2007). As regulation of production and
64


distribution has become more privatized in the current food regime, and as technology
has advanced, supermarkets have more opportunities to appropriate tastes quickly and
to differentiate products. Supermarkets, then, represent an important site for study of
dialectical movements in and between food production and consumption.
This study contributes to literatures on retail horizontal integration,
supermarkets, food regimes, and food systems in a few important ways. It offers a
new analytical scheme with which any retailer can be studied, rather than just high-end
companies like Whole Foods Market. Secondly, it presents an interesting way to
utilize the theory of McDonaldization (Ritzer 2008) by applying it to customer
expectations and marketing tactics, rather than as merely a rationalization of
production and service. Thirdly, it provides a fresh example of how the theory of risk
society, and the problem of borders in interdependence crises, can be empirically
tracked through critical discourse analysis in a retail setting (Beck & Sznaider 2006).
Fourthly, it argues that the food regimes perspective would benefit from an inclusion
of Foucaults (1977) concept of truth regime in explaining how the corporate-
environmental food regime is maintained in centers of hegemony, like America, and
provides an example of how to empirically support that claim. Fifthly, it is a move
toward filling the gap in the political economy of consumption literature for analysis
of American supermarkets, which are coming to have significant global implications
as that sector rapidly concentrates. Lastly, it provides evidence of an emergent trend
in America of spill-over to value-conscious consumers of political, cultural, and social
discourses and values from political movements and high-end retailers.
65


The first major takeaway from this paper is that the location of purchase for
food items matters, over and above what product is purchased. As large retailers
expand horizontally, they are able to exert more and more pressure unilaterally on
production practices. Buying a fair trade tea at Kroger does not just support fair trade
suppliers, it also provides a small contribution to the capital available for Kroger to
increase its economy of scale, and to leverage that size over supply chains. In the case
of Kroger, capital reinvestment also includes investments in energy efficient
equipment and logistical systems, as well as providing market access to local farmers
and producers. However, shopping at expanding supermarket businesses also means
supporting a movement toward a retail environment in which supermarkets can
demand lower prices and more fees from suppliers. Increased market share for the
supermarket chain allows for more power to potentially respond to consumer social
and environmental demands, while raising its power to potentially drive food prices
down for producers and put smaller grocers out of business.
Secondly, individual shopping decisions at a Kroger supermarket with 50,000
options should not be mistaken for transformative political actions with respect to
cosmopolitan risks and the global food regime. Buying a local apple in September is
nice, but the supermarket will still offer New Zealand apples in July, and customers
will ostensibly continue to expect a large number of choices year round at cheap
prices. Convenience, assortment, and prices are the most important factors for
American consumers when they choose a grocer, far more so than sustainable or
natural selection (Food Marketing Institute 2012). Further, fair trade luxury goods,
like coffee, may do wonderful things for those select few coffee farmers, but a truly
66


fair global trade system for grains and proteins would require a revolutionary shift
away from Western agricultural subsidies and international free flow of capital. A
potentially transformative grocer model would include severely limiting product
selection, and offering those products at prices far higher than typically seen in
America. Given the regular cycle of crises in capitalism, there will continue to be
times when tens of millions of Americans will simply be unwilling to individually
shop in a transformative manner, even given the motivation and knowledge necessary,
as the huge dip in organics sales in 2009 exhibited (Food Marketing Institute 2012).
Lastly, discourse should be viewed as a realm of contention between shoppers,
retailers, producers, distributors, the media, and so on. It is not controlled by
supermarkets, or by capital. While its framing is tempered by capital within a
competitive market context, it does carry potential weight for transformative social
action. Cultural emphases not to mention the economic necessity for struggling
people on do it yourself household practical activities and local food has opened up
opportunities for supermarkets to profit from. It has also, however, led to a significant
communal urban agricultural movement. Examples can be found all over America,
including Denvers Green Leaf, a youth centered, educational food justice minded
urban farm. Discursive struggles, aided by the democratic dispersal of information on
the internet, can expose political and economic contradictions, opening up the
possibility of informing and inciting transformative praxis.
This project started with the question: How do discourse and capital shape the
supermarket experience in America? I have found that discourse is conditionally
important within the context of a flexible capital accumulation regime. Retailers do
67


exert power over supply chains, and they are somewhat responsive to consumer
demands for socially and environmentally ethical practices. For Kroger, this has
translated to investments in energy efficient equipment and logistics in company
operations, the move toward only offering MSC certified wild-caught seafood,
offering more local and organic produce, and the addition of minimally processed
private label options. Kroger frames its ideologically reformist marketing in a way
that promotes consumption and the importance of individual shopping decisions for
personal health and environmental stewardship. We are left with this paradox:
customers, along with social and environmental discourses, are given more power over
supply chains as supermarkets increase their market share, yet that very consolidation
is predicated on expanding and cheapening options for wasteful consumption.
68


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FLEXIBLE ACCUMULATION, RETAIL CAPITAL, AND DISCOURSE IN KROGER SUPERMARKETS by JEFFREY STILLEY B.S., Kansas State University, 2008 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment o f the re quirements for the degree of Master of Arts Sociology 2014

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ii This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by Jeffrey Stilley has been approved for the Sociology Program by Akihiko Hirose, Chair Keith Guzi k John Brett May 2 2014

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iii Stilley, Jeffrey (M.A. Sociology) Flexible Accumulation, Retail Capital, and Discourse in Kroger Supermarkets Thesis directed by Assistant Professor Akihiko Hirose. ABSTRACT Large supermarket chains in the United States during the corporate environmental food regime form powe rful nexuses between the consumer, the producer, the processor, and the state in the era of flexible capital accumulation. It is in this context that the present thesis provides a US based empirical case study of Kroger supermarkets in order to explore ho w intense competition and the logic of retail capital shape supermarket attempts to both regulate and capitalize on con sumer demands Using critical discourse a nalysis, t his paper introduces a unique analytical scheme to identify three different forms of rationality in retail marketing framing of discourse : individualized reason, cosmopolitan risk, and enchantment, contextualized by retail capital and business strategies. I ndividualized rationality, often framed in terms of personal responsibility, appea rs throughout the Kroger experience. Kroger's competitive need to ensure convenience and consistent supply of an expanding number of product options is inco nsistent with its cosmopolitan risk framing Increasing utilization of enchanted rationality appea rs as an emergent trend to boost sales and brand loyalty, a practice borrowed from high end supermarkets. The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication. Approved: Akihiko Hirose

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iv DEDICATION To Megan. Your ha rd work, advice, and patience made this possible. Thank you. T o my sons. Playtime helped me keep it all in perspective. Thank you.

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v ACKNOWLEDGEMENT I would like to thank my advisor Akihiko Hirose for his countless hours spent helping m e through this project, beginning long before I came to this topic. His patience, flexibility, and trust in me were indispensible in the final months, as were the numerous highly specific comments and suggestions. I would also like to thank Keith Guzik a nd John Brett for their time and complementary big picture comments that were so vital to the improved organization and clarity of the thesis.

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vi TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTERS I INTRODUCTION II GLOBAL FOOD SYSTEMS & SUPERMARKETS Regulation & Fl exible Accumulation Food Regimes Biological Constraints to Capital & the Food Regimes Perspective S upermarkets Discourse Rationalizations & Shopping Individualized Reason Cosmopolitan Risk Enchantment II I METHOD Critical Discourse Analysis D ata Analytical Scheme 1 8 9 12 17 19 25 28 29 31 33 35 35 37 39

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vii IV. KROGER FINDINGS Kroger Operations & Business Strategies Individualized Reason Results Cosmopolitan Risk Results Enchantment Results V. DISCUSSION & CONCLUSIONS Kroger Discourse K roger Retail Capital U.S. Supermarkets & the Food Regime Conclusions REFERENCES 40 40 42 47 54 57 57 60 62 64 69

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1 CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION When I drive around Denver, Colorado, between home, work, and school, I regularly pass three identical bi llboards that say in giant letters, "simple truth: Eat Better, Think Simple." The first two words are in a stylish botanically themed green circle. The other letters are in black on a white background. The message is clear: if I want to improve my die t, all I need to do is take out the complicated components. In my mind, an improved diet is a healthier one, and complicated food conjures processed and heavily packaged products, with ingredients I cannot pronounce. Get rid of complicated food, and bett er eating follows. Simple, right? If I stop to consider how I am interpreting the message, however, I realize I am making a lot of assumptions based on my own values and skills. I view eating as an essential part of my health. I am also perfectly comfo rtable in the kitchen making a wide range of dishes from scratch, and indeed value that skill as an ability to control what goes into my body. Yet there are many other ways people can define what it means to eat better', and what simple' food is. Simpl e can just as well mean easy to prepare. Eating better could mean eating tastier food. It could mean eating with a gentler environmental impact, or from local sources. It could mean eating healthier using a totally different perspective of healthy' tha n the one I have, and so on. The signs are advertising a brand of food sold at King Soopers supermarkets, a locally based chain of large grocery stores all over Colorado and Wyoming. They appear as representations of my friendly local grocer helping me simplify my shopping trips. It turns out that King Soopers and the Simple Truth brand are actually owned by

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2 The Kroger Company ("Kroger"), based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Outside of Wal Mart, Kroger is the biggest grocer in America (Planet Retail 2012). In 2 012, it enjoyed $96.8 billion in sales and employed over 340,000 people. Its 34 distribution centers and 37 food processing plants serviced over 2,400 supermarkets in 31 states 1 (Kroger 2013 c ). Most of its supermarkets, including King Soopers locations, are wha t they call combination stores convenient one stop supermarkets tailored to the neighborhood -which average 67,000 square feet and offer consumers about 50,000 food options in a store (Kroger 2013 c ). Organizationally, Kroger presents a stark contrast to the way it markets at least one of its product lines. Simplicity and naturalness are in vogue, with giant manufacturers, like Heinz ("Simply Heinz: America's Favorite Ketchup made simply from the basics") and Pillsbury ("Simply Cookies: Cookies are made just like you'd make them at home, with no preservatives and no artificial colors or flavors"), emphasizing the simplicity of some of their product lines. The expansion of product choices at the grocery store to include more natural' sel ections next to the processed versions appears as a shift back toward pre WWII ways of eating, when food was not heavily processed and consumption decisions were based on tradition rather than nutrition science (Dixon 2009; Collingham 2012). The technolog y and organization needed to coordinate the production and distribution of Simple Truth fresh chicken, for example, to thousands of Kroger stores across America in a consistent, cheap, and profitable manner, 1 Kroger sells groceries under the following banners : Baker's, City Market, Dillons, Fry's, Gerbes, Jay C, King Soopers, Kroger, Owen's, Pay Less, QFC, Ralphs, Scott's, Smit h's, Fred Meyer, Food 4 Less, Foods Co., Ruler Foods, and Harris Teeter

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3 however, are very new. These new ways of superm arkets doing business are part of a larger economic context of flexible production, flexible labor, and flexible capital accumulation (Burch & Lawrence 2007). Such flexibility in a consumption driven market, like America's, translates to opportunities for targeting a range of consumer niches. The very industrialization of food production and consumption that led us to this point has changed the social meaning of nature,' creating opportunities for food companies to symbolically shape more directly how we relate to nature through their commodities (Goodman & Redclift 1991). The disconnect between an American consumer and food supply chains, then, creates the opportunity for which Kroger may act as mediator between shopper and nature with simple' fresh ch icken. If food companies are merely acting in response to consumer desires in a flexible manner, however, that could signal a seismic shift in the power relations between practical production concerns and cultural or political values. In other words consumer preferences may now hold a historically new level of influence over how the products they consume are produced and distributed, through flexible supply chains. To the degree that this is the case, it typically occurs through the intercession of retail supermarkets. Supermarkets control spaces of exchange where production and consumption meet, and they employ cultural symbols to lubricate economic exchange (Dixon 2008). The supermarket sector is highly competitive, and has been on a clear path of consolidation since the mid 1990s in America (Konefal et al. 2007), which highlights the growing significance of retail capital accumulation. Social scientists and food activists are confronted with the problem of attempting to sort out how much influe nce customers have over supermarkets and supply chains.

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4 Retail capital, like any other capital, must accumulate and expand. Flexible capital accumulation (Harvey 1989), through flexible and innovative labor, production, and consumption patterns, is the current dominant mode of capital accumulation. Retail capital is not purely economic, however, in that it attempts to encourage and facilitate exchange through cultural symbols (Marsden & Wrigley 1995). Retailers extract value from the act of consumptio n, in addition to the labor process. It is an open debate as to how much agency and power customers have in the shaping of cultural and political processes in the marketplace. It has been argued that identity is merely purchased through commodities that represent a range of ideologies (Wrenn 2012), that fair trade has commodified development through celebrity centered marketing (Goodman 2010), that credit cards enable consumers to exchange emotional needs for the purchase of fetishized objects (Salerno 20 12), and that a fetishized guilt complex' has arisen where liberal guilt is supplied with fair trade commodities that do not affect the potency of capital (Cremin 2012). Another perspective holds that conflicts occur within and between production and con sumption domains. The argument says that shopping is a political act, and that consumers have the agency and intelligence to penetrate the commodity veil (Goodman & DuPuis 2002). In order to sort out this political economy of cons umption,' "it is necessary to explore how the political economy and cultural aspects of consumption interact, and how social and political practices embody both" (Marsden & Wrigley 1995:1899). Global food relations and dominant modes of capital accumulati on, for example, condition the political economy of eating. It is no secret that Americans eat and waste

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5 food on a scale unimaginable in many parts of the world. Yet, Americans only spend 5.5% of their disposable income on groceries (Kraft 2013), even gi ven the fact that supermarkets are stocked with thousands of products from all over the world at any given time. These facts can only be understood if the inequitous global system of food production and distribution is recognized. A food regimes perspect ive (Friedmann & McMichael 1989; McMichael 2009) provides the basis for that understanding. Through U.S. political and economic hegemony, millions of Americans enjoy incredible access to a quantity and quality of food options unparalleled in history. The se global power relations are largely invisible to American consumers, who nevertheless compose an important piece of the current food regime. Essential to political and cultural practices in the context of a food regime are the social processes for d etermining what truth' is in a society. Structures of power require regimes of truth' for maintenance of systems of domination (Foucault 1977). A regime of truth produces discourses that legitimate and stabilize power relations. Thus, a regime of trut h in centers of power, like the U.S., is a necessary component for the maintenance of power relations found in the current food regime. This paper, therefore, utilizes a critical discourse analysis (CDA) approach (Van Dijk 1993; Fairclough 2013), which se eks to expose the ways discourses can both maintain and undermine systems of domination. A CDA approach provides the best way to empirically explore the many layers of dialectical relationships between discursive framing and flexible capital accumulation. Shopping for food at a supermarket is something that someone from just about every American household does on a regular basis. In fact, King Kullen Grocery

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6 Company in New York invented the supermarket model -now prevalent around the world -in 1930, with the strategy of selling huge volumes of food at low profit margins (Lawrence & Burch 2007). Supermarkets have since come to be a normal part of everyday life all over America, and supermarkets are the places where flexible accumulation and dis course come together in the context of food systems. Food is also often a source of contention and struggle around the world, as its vital use value often does not match its commodified exchange value (McMichael 1994). The importance to global food relat ions, and the ubiquity in everyday life, of U.S. supermarkets make them a significant site for study into the political economy of consumption. This research, then, begins with the question: H ow do discourse and capital shape the supermarket expe rience in America? Critical discourse analysis is utilized with a case study of Kroger supermarkets in order to pursue the question. Kroger is the largest dedicated grocery store chain in the U.S (Planet Retail 2012); it has aggressively pursued a Custo mer 1 st strategy, as well as targeted both value conscious customers and the natural' market (Kroger 2013 c ). Discourse and capital are both essential as the social importance of semiotics has become acute during the consumption dependent era of flexible accumulation (Fairclough 2013). A unique analytical scheme is developed for this research project, based on how purchasing decisions and brand loyalty are rationalized in the symbolic framing of discourse. I use individualized reason, cosmopolitan risk, and enchantment as ideal types for analysis of how Kroger frames its products and brand.

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7 What follows is a chapter outlining what is already known regarding capital accumulation and food systems, supermarkets, and outlines discourse theory. It also ar gues for a Marxian regulation approach to studying food systems, and theoretically develops the analytical scheme employed in the study. Chapter III outlines the CDA methodology used, and its usefulness for empirically looking at the influences of discour se and capital in a U.S. supermarket. Chapter IV presents the results of the research. Chapter V provides discussion regarding the emergent trends found in the study, how they relate to the corporate environmental food regime, and states what the contrib utions of the study are.

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8 CHAPTER II GLOBAL FOOD SYSTEMS & SUPERMARKETS In order to situate the importance of American supermarkets in today's global economy, a review of relevant political economy theory is first presented. Regulation schoo l theory (Aglietta 1976 [2000] ) and flexible accumulation (Harvey 1989) are outlined, followed by the food regimes perspective (Friedmann & McMichael 1989). The regulation school provides the context with which to study political economy of consumption, as it incorporates politics and culture into its perspective on how regimes of capital accumulation operate. Flexible accumulation is the primary contemporary mode of capital accumulation, and provides a wider economic context for the importance of retail c apital and its flexible responsiveness to consumer trends. The food regimes perspective outlines the structure of global food systems with a regulation approach, and it explains the current food regime -the corporate environmental regime -in the conte xt of flexible accumulation. Criticisms of the food regimes approach are then described. A brief overview of literature highlighting the nexus of food production and consumption found in supermarkets is offered as a backdrop to why supermarkets are impor tant to study and why both capital and discourse are essential factors in their operation. A section on the theoretical justifications and relevant concepts for discourse studies is next. Lastly, the theoretical basis for the analytical scheme of differe nt forms of rationalization for marketing and consumption developed for this study is justified and described. This includes McDonaldization for individualized

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9 reason (Ritzer 2008), the theory of a modern risk society for cosmopolitan risk (Beck 1992), an d the enchantment of retail spaces (Ritzer 2010). Regulation & Flexible Accumulation Perspectives abound in social science studies of agrifood systems regarding the processes at play within production and consumption sides of the equation, as well as h ow they relate to each other (see Goodman & DuPuis 2002). Some scholars reject the Marxian regulation global narratives of agricultural production found in food regimes literature, described below, as coherent examples of wider economic trends, because th ey see agriculture as fundamentally different from industrial production (for example, see Fine 1994; Goodman & Watts 1994). Such critiques are important reminders that the differences in land use, technology, nutritional perception, and shelf life for va rious agricultural commodities require diverse production and distribution systems that cannot be easily abstracted and related to each other, or to nonagricultural commodities. Goodman and DuPuis (2002), on the other hand, are unsatisfied with the orthod ox Marxian perspective that rejects any notion of food consumption as a meaningful activity. Even so, the Marxian regulation food regimes approach provides the best way to historicize and theorize the current relationship between consumption and product io n in agrifood systems. Marx and Engels (1978) argued that the most essential dialectic for any period of history lies "in the contradiction between the productive forces and the form of intercourse," or exchange and property rights (196). Marx's exclusiv e focus on production, however, made more sense during 19th Century industrial capitalism than it does today. Thus, a Marx inspired analysis need not discount exchange and consumption. The regulation school (Aglietta 1976 [2000] )

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10 provides further nuance a nd historical context with which to locate retailers in a complex political economic system. It may be difficult to provide coherent meta theories across food systems in a vacuum, but a Marxian regulation perspective shows how the rise in retail capital c oncentration, and its power over production and distribution, relates to the current regime of capital accumulation. The r egulation approach (Aglietta 1976 [2000] ) to social analysis demarcates rough historical epochs, or regimes, which hold relatively stab le power constellations in service of capital accumulation. The necessary power relations recreate themselves through arrangements that are mutually beneficial for key actors and institutions in the domains of politics, production, consumption, distributi on, culture, media, and so on. Regulation school scholarship emphasizes that there are a host of interests that must be considered when studying unequal distributions of power, weal th, and capital (Harvey 1989 ). The mode of regulation is the formal and i nformal institutions that arise in order to provide structure and stability to each regime. Within each epoch, not all phenomena are indicative of the regulation regime, but the activities related to the maintenance of the regime are key. While the w ords regulation' and regime' indicate a focus on structure and stability, this approach also of ten expressly utilizes a Marxian dialectical analysis and an emphasis on historical contradictions. David Harvey (2003) has carried this tradition forth with the thesis that each regime operates under the dialectic between the logic of territorial imperial power, and the logic of capital accumulation. These two interests sometimes align, sometimes contradict each other, and each logic comes with its own contra dictions. Three regimes are outlined (Harvey 2003): Bourgeo is Imperialism (circa

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11 1870 1945) American Hegemony or Fordism (circa 1945 1970) and Neo liberal Hegemony or P ost Fordism (circa 1970 2000) Bourgeois imperialism rose from excess capit al accumulation in European political centers, which was then invested in colonies that, as a result, had to be brought under more direct imperial control. American hegemony brought decolonization around the world, along with high global dependency on U.S political security and trade agreement, and currency policies. Neo liberal hegemony is marked by structural adjustments, financialization, and the free flow of capital globally to extract profit from formerly public assets and formerly peasant held land Each regime is driven to economic crisis by the problem of overaccumulation of capital, which must incessantly find or create new opportunities for reinvestment : The Marxist argument is, then, that the tendency towards overaccumulation can never be elim inated under capitalism. It is a never ending and eternal problem for any capitalist mode of production. The only question, therefore, is how the overaccumulation tendency can be expressed, contained, absorbed, or managed in ways that do not threaten the capitalist social order. We here encounter the heroic side of bourgeois life and politics, in which real choices have to be made if the social order is not to dissolve into chaos. (Harvey 1989:181) Regime of truth discourse is a vital way this overaccum ulation tendency is managed. Nonetheless, paradoxically, each regime is stable, yet ultimately unsustainable due to objective contradictions, and must give way to a new regime when crisis occurs For Harvey (1989), t he dominant economic theme of the neol iberal r egime is flexible accumulation The crisis of American hegemony and Fordism occurred because the unionized arrangements of production based growth could no longer keep pace with the amount of capital accumulating. Flexible accumulation is largely based on financial capital, as well as flexible production s that use technology to move information and supplies quickly across time and space. Labor has been defanged, cross trained, and

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12 made mobile in order to more efficiently supply cheap and skilled labor when needed. Flexible production has also allowed for the flexible targeting of specialized consumer demands: "Flexible accumulation has been accompanied on the consumption side, therefore, by a much greater attention to quick changing fashions and the mobilization of all the artifices of need inducement and cultural transformation that this implies" (Harvey 1989:156). This economic process is the practical foundation to the significance of discourse in contemporary political economy considerations Flexible accumulation, then, potentially imparts on the supermarket consumer a qualitatively new importance in relation to agricultural production. Supermarket s want to control consumption habits of course, but they still may be responsive to patterns in consumer demands in a new and dynamic way. Food Regimes Harriet Friedmann and Philip McMichael (1989) established the food regimes perspective with a historical narrative of both the emergence of the liberal nation state and the industrialization of agriculture across two time periods. The dialectical analysis presented provides a useful lens with which to study the politics and the process of capital accumulation that international systems of agricultural production distribution, and exchange devel op through. Percolating below the surface of questions posed by the food regimes interpretation is the classic Agrarian Question, which asks how the countryside is transformed by urban capital accumulation. Araghi (2003) argues the food regimes viewpoint is vital for deepening an understanding of the reproduction of labor via wage food, and as an integral piece of what he c alls embedded imperialism This concept refers to exploitative relations in production. Global agriculture exemplifies the

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13 concept as a cog in the reproduction of labor power, and the neoliberal era acceleration of depeasantization worldwide (Araghi 2003). Food regimes literature adopts a regulation approach to food systems, and they map roughly onto the same regimes introdu ced above. Friedmann (2005) argues that food regimes arise from conflicts between social movements and powerful factions, and are centered about implicit rules extracted from a convergence of various interests bene fiting from the regime Not all agricult ural activity during a time period is necessarily directly tied to the corresponding regime, and the interests that gain from any food regime may draw their power from politics or capital. However, the industrialization of agriculture commodifies food, pu ts downward pressure on the real cost of reproducing labor, and displaces increasing numbers of peasants into the industrial reserve army. Thus, contradictions inherent in a food regime are an expression of the contradictions of capitalism (McMichael 2005 ). I will now turn to the specifics of the first two regimes. The first food regime -later dubbed the Colonial Diasporic Regime (Friedmann 2005) -lasted from 1870 to 1914 (Friedmann & McMichael 1989). It was based upon colonial exports of wheat and m eat from settler states -like America (former colony) and Australia -to European urban centers. The final stages of colonialism saw European cities attempt to exert direct political control over occupied tropical colonies for the extraction of industr ial inputs. The process of urbanization also required increasing volumes of cheap wage food for the expanding proletariat. The settler colonies provided the wage food with unpaid family labor by European emigrants, but from geographic locations of increa singly economically sovereign nations. Thus, out of the politically

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14 colonial European industrial cities rose the power of the nation state, based upon international trade and liberal contract political relations (McMichael 2009) The whole process was fa cilitated by the industrialization of Europe, as well as technological advancements in transportation and agricultural production. Perhaps as important as food regimes are the periods of crisis and transition between regimes (McMichael 2009) Crises p rovide the recalibration that becomes necessary out of the culmination of contradictions (Harvey 2011) A new system may be born that provides both a new set of stable relations, and a somewhat new set of contradictions. The first food regime was initial ly dismantled by World War I, and the transition extended through the Great Depression, Dust Bowls among the nation states, and World War II (Friedmann 2005). The Dust Bowls wer e a direct consequence of plow ing huge swaths of untouched land for monocultur e agricultural production during the first food regime, exposing a contradiction between production and the environment, and displacing many farmers from the land. The second food regime -or the Mercantile Industrial Regime -lasted from 1947 to 1973 (F riedmann 2005). This regime centered around the dependency of decolonized states on U.S. food exports, and the opposing movement toward flexible transnational supply chains. The dependency of the third world on American food exports arose out of the de sire of decolonized states to quickly industrialize -by moving peasants to urban centers -and the loss of markets for tropical exports due to food processing technology advances in more developed economies (Friedmann & McMichael 1989). There are sever al important threads to bear i n mind for this period. First the whole system centered on the United States economic hegemony. This hegemony was

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15 based on the fact that America came out of WWII as the only large economy better off after the war than befo re, largely because agricultural production massively expanded (Collingham 2012) Thus, the U.S. was in a position to restructure international trade around American interests and the dollar, through agreements like Bretton Woods. Post war aid packages a nd the International Monetary Fund, tied closely to the interests of the U.S. Treasury Department, formalized and regulated global dependency on heavily subsidized American grain. The expansion of agricultur al production outside the U.S. came to erode the territorial hegemony of American grain exports. This process can be seen at work in the rise of the Livestock Complex' during the second foo d regime (Friedmann 1994 ). This rise in globalized animal protein supply chains displaced farmers from local syst ems of provision for food and clothing around the world. Transnational businesses built huge feedlots in countries across the globe, like Argentina, that all operate the same way, use similar feed, and harvest for heavy processing. These operations can b e established in whatever countries offer the most lucrative incentives, and are facilitated by technologies that allow for distance and durability in distribution (Friedmann 1994). Transnational agribusinesses are able to regulate their own production pr actices, and have transformed huge swaths of farmland worldwide toward the production of inputs for industrialized food processing (Friedmann 1994). This transnationalization of food systems helped erode the mercantile industrial food regime. While there is some debate as to whether a third regime can be satisfactorily established academically, it is often described as a corporate environmental regime (Friedmann 2005). This paper makes the assumption that we are currently within a third

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16 food regime becau se it provides a highly relevant lens with which to relate supermarkets to global food systems (McMichael & Friedmann 2007), and there has been suffi cient empirical evidence and theoretical debate offered for its establishment (Friedmann 2005; McMichael 20 05; McMichael & Friedmann 2007; Burch & Lawrence 2009; Campbell 2009; Dixon 2009; McMichael 2009; and Gimenez & Shattuck 2011). The most important characteristics of this regime are the continued expansion of animal protein supply chains, the supermarket led reorganization of supply chains, the displacement of small farmers globally, and the selective appropriation of elite consumer demands (Friedmann 2005; McMichael 2009). The corporate environmental regime operates within three dynamics of world agricul ture: financialization (which often results in vertical integration and horizontal mergers in food businesses), privatization of states (through structural adjustment policies), and the priority of money value in crises (rather than long term economic and practical sustainability) (McMichael 2005). World agriculture is a globalized system of food production, where food security through the market is emphasized, and knowledge of seeds and soil is privatized (McMichael 2005). The financialization of agri food systems, the most relevant world agriculture dynamic for U.S. supermarkets, is part of a wider neoliberal economic trend since the 1970's (Marsden & Whatmore 1994; Busch 2010). Banking capital has entered into farmland properties, farming equipment, and direct investments or takeovers in fundamentally new ways from the 1980's on (Burch & Lawrence 2009). On the global stage, World Bank decisions and futures trading markets for agricultural commodities visit remarkable reorganizations worldwide (Burch & Lawrence 2009). Supermarkets have also been affect ed, with private equity management of some retailers for short term

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17 profit, and many retailers now behaving like hedge funds and private equity groups on their own, in a process of financialization in r everse' (Burch & Lawrence 2009). As will be discussed below, supermarkets compete by targeting consumer demands. The rise of supermarket power over supply chains provides the opportunity to resolve some contradictions in the first two food regimes. Cam pbell (2009) argues that if supermarket driven auditing mechanisms can successfully make food systems socially legitimate and ecologically accountable, this may turn the corporate environmental regime into a food from somewhere' regime, based on auditing and certification systems, like Colorado Proud', fair trade labels, the Rainforest Alliance program, and so on. However, the food from somewhere' consumer value may be socially dependent on distinguishing itself from cheap food from nowhere' products ( Campbell 2009). In fact, the elite economy of quality' in question may even serve to intensify accumulation by dispossession in global agriculture (McMichael & Friedmann 2007). So far, attempts at regulating food production in an ethical manner have led to a proliferation of excess product labels sin ce 2001 that confuse customers. Further, the labels are usually attached to luxury goods, and they typically address global human rights concerns, rather than localized development needs (Seidman 2005). Sup ermarkets represent important locations in the social legitimacy of corporate appropriation of consumer demands in the third food regime. Biological Constraints to Capital & the Food Regimes Perspective The food regimes approach to studying a griculture and food systems has received considerable criticism on a number of grounds. A major critique is that agricultural production practices have not been significantly altered by capital :

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18 the attempt to equate agriculture and industry is misguid ed. The agricultural labour process remains highly individualistic, entrepreneurial, and provides continuing scope to practice the art' of farming. Its industrial counterpart, by contrast, is characterized by a highly complex division of labour, de s killing, and the destruction of craft knowledge (Goodman & Redclift 1991:100) In other words, even large farms are quite often family owned and maximize family labor. Farmers are still craftsmen who have to know their landscape and soil composition o r livestock biological needs in order to customize production practices. Thus, a global food regimes narrative of agricultural matters that utilizes industrial terminology does not allow space to discuss agrarian spatial organization and production (Goodm an & Watts 1994). This concern largely derive s from the fact that food production and consumption are both heavily conditioned by biological constra ints, such as erosion, natural disasters, climate change, and plant and animal diseases for production; and nutrient requirements, caloric intake limitations, and allergies for consumption (Goodman & Redclift 1991 ; Fine 1994). The conclusion is that Fordist and post Fordist analytical categories can only be applied arbitrarily to empirical food systems finding s (Goodman & Watts 1994; F ine, Heasman & Wright 1996 ). Fine et al. (1996) argue that the only effective way of analyzing food systems is through a vertical -and spatially limited -systems of provision' approach: "There is not a single food system, e ither across all foods or even globally for a single food, with differentiation between one country and another even if it serves a common world market to a greater or lesser extent. Each food system is potentially structured differently and has a distinc t chronology" (8 9). They do concede horizontal relations and similarities but they firmly argue for vertical analysis.

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19 While it is certainly true that agricultural production has been affected by capital indirectly through financed industrial in puts (G oodman & Redclift 1991 ), a regulation approach views agricultural production as a piece of any capital accumulation regime. It is not fatally problematic that labor organization in agricultural production does not mirror the factory line. Further, this p aper takes into account that utilizing the two analytical categories Fordist and post Fordist is problematic. I will use different social theories for my analysis of discourse in Kroger supermarkets, but with the understanding that the rise of retail impo rtance in food supply chains is a reflection of post Fordist (i.e., flexible accumulation) processing and marketing abilities and strategies (see Lowe & Wrigley 1996 for an outline of this argument). A report from a retail consulting firm provides support for this perspective: "Nimble retailers are driving awareness of market trends and sales data throughout the supply chain, helping them meet customer demand faster, reducing working capital tied up in inventory, and avoiding markdowns on unsold inventory (Ripsam et al. 2010:5). T he growing domination of retailers ( while not total) over producers, processors, and consumers is essentially horizontal in nature, and must be understood in terms of wider relations of capital accumulation. Supermarkets The ri se of retailer importance since the 80's has come partially due to government deregulation trends worldwide, which has opened the door for private regulation of quality and product differentiation (Marsden & Wrigley 1996; Lawrence & Burch 2007). While the quantified demand for food is relatively inelastic per capita supermarkets have proven masterful at increasing product choice by offering more value added industrialized food products, as well as more naturalized' foods (Marsden &

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20 Wrigley 1995). Produc t and brand differentiation have been necessary strategies for the continuance of capital accumulation because of high competition and low profit margins, along with somewhat inflexible demand (Konefal, Mascarenhas & Hatanaka 2005). Consolidation of marke t control by the supermarket chains has led to increased power over growers, manufacturers, and distributors of all sizes -through a host of rules and fees that must be complied with in order to have access to consumers (Lawrence & Burch 2007; Dixon 20 08). The importance of retailers over supply chains may signify an important shift in the Marxian dialectic between production and exchange. In other words, consumer decisions at the point of exchange may be coming to have profound effects down the su pply chain through the concentration of supermarket market share. Understanding how retail capital and discourse interact at the supermarket is important in relation to regulation in a flexible accumulation era political economy of consumption (Marsden & Wrigley 1995). The era of flexible accumulation has emphasized the opportunities for profit through promoting and guiding consumerism. Supermarkets in particular have done an effective job of "re embedding food economies and food cultures in local imag inations just as they dis embed them through their global supply sourcing" (Dixon & Isaacs 2013:284). Such meaning work is conducted through branding strategies that attempt to gain consumer trust and loyalty (Dixon 2007). This is accomplished through im posing an imperial knowledge system' that defines for the consumer what food quality and safety are through cultural messages (Freidberg 2007).

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21 Product differentiation and training customers to consume mass quantities of certain foods must have a prac tical basis, however. Technologies have played a key role in the ability of competing supermarkets to increase choices and reduce costs. Australia, for example, saw a huge spike in chicken consumption at th e end of the 20th century. The shift was driven by the top supermarkets pushing chicken as a healthy and convenient choice for customers (Dixon 2008). Those supermarkets were only able to accomplish such a shift in consumption patterns through a disciplined and flexible production chain. Electronic i nventory systems, integrated ordering software with suppliers and just in time delivery schemes provide supermarkets the ability to ensure consistent stock and profitability for perishable items like fresh meat (Dixon 2008; The Reinvestment Fund 2011) T he high organizational and technological demands placed on suppliers by large supermarket chains has the effect of concentrating the supply chain, though it appears that retailers have still generally managed to increase their dominance along the food chai n (Burch & Lawrence 2007). The movement in capitalist societies toward domestic deregulation and international regulatory impasses during the era of neo liberal hegemony' (also characterized by flexible accumulation) is an important backdrop for the con solidation of retailer power. The ability of retail capital to effectively extract value from the exchange of goods is dependent on differentiated choices. Retail capital is expanded by : meeting publicly inspired concerns (such as all the year round con sumption of previously seasonal goods, or health foods) and the rules of the state (for example, food safety standards). The construction of the consumer interest -as a set of individual and collective concerns -is directly an outcome of these interac tions (Marsden & Wrigley 1995:1905)

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22 When there are loose food safety standards, supermarkets are able to provide a range of options for one type of product ( e.g., fresh chicken ) for different segments of the population. Some options are sold as cheap ly as possible, while others are sold based on higher safety or quality standards than those set by the state. Thus, while supermarkets often emphasize the quality of their products, this is a marketing t actic made easier by regulations with low safety an d quality expec tations (Konefal et al. 2005 ). Such segmentation of consumers into abilities to pay for quality or cultural distinction is a feature of post Fordist society, based on new technologies and relaxed stat e regulations (Johnston 2008 ). Because retailers are expected to regulate themselves based on consumer demands, supermarkets are able to selectively appropriate those demands that provide opportunity for profit (McMichael & Friedmann 2007 ). The primary mechanism in the sharp uptick in retail dominance of the food chain has been ho rizontal integration. Kroger has a long history of buying out smaller regional grocery chains in order to penetrate new markets (Progressive Grocer 2013) If the chain has customer loyalty already built up in the lo cal market, the name of the stores does not change. This has enabled Kroger to rapidly fold new stores into their expanding economy of scale. Another benefit to a horiz ontal growth strategy is that it spreads risks and liabilities across more stores and markets. Vertical integration, on the other hand, is a more risky strategy as the same organization will own more liability up the supply chain (Cox & Chicksand 2007). However, many retailers, especially Kroger 2 have still pursued this strategy as well by developing private label brands and building processing 2 Kroger's private labels include Simple Tru th, Private Selection, Kroger, banner b rands, Value, Big K, Fresh Selections, Comforts for Baby, Home Sense, and Pet Pride

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23 facilities. Vertical integration provides either a higher profit margin or the ability to undercut the competition, and as such is very attractive, if risky. Most of the literature on super market dominance of supply chains comes out of Europe (Hughes 1996; Lowe & Wrigley 1996; Cox & Chicksand 2007; and Hughes 2007) and Australia/New Zealand ( Marsden & Wrigley 1995; Marsden & Wrigley 1996; Burch & Lawrence 2007; Dixon 2007; Lawrence & Burch 2 007; Dixon 2008; and Campbell 2009) This could be because American supermarket chains have been slower to consolidate the market. Kroger, for example, only had 5.8% of the market in 1992 (Hughes 1996) but it now has 11% (The Reinvestment Fund 2011) A dditionally, the supermarket model was developed in America in the early 20 th century, and is thus more normalized than in Europe, where the supermarket model had difficulties expanding post WWII until around the 1980's (Burch & Lawrence 2007). Konefal et al. (2007) traces the origin of U.S. concentration to the ag gressive move by Wal Mart into the grocery sector in the mid 90's. Wal Mart's push began in rural markets, but has since moved to urban and suburban areas. Their large volume purchasing from su ppliers and i nventory management partnerships with suppliers has led to sharp competition in America, forcing companies like Kroger to pursue a larger economy of scale. By 2004, the top five grocers took 48.3% of the U.S. market (Konefal et al. 2007 ), and manufacturers pa id $9 billion in slotting fees in 2003 for shelf access in superma rkets (Burch & Lawrence 2007 ). The Great Recession has only intensified retail competition, as household grocery spending fell 3.1% between 2008 and 2011, adjusted for infl ation (Food Marketing Institute 2012). Wal Mart, as a massive international corporation with thousands of hypermarkets, dominat es the American grocery sector. However, other American supermarkets have

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24 largely escaped study, possibly because they are typi cally not international players. Even Kroger, which is the largest dedicated supermarket company in the U.S., has stores in only 31 states. Yet, Kroger was still the eighth largest grocer in the world in 2011 (Planet Retail 2012), and the likely Albertso ns Safeway merger in late 2014 by Cerberus Capital Management (Rubin 2014) will further consolidate the U.S. market. The following study moves toward filling this gap in research on how American supermarkets relate to agrifood supply chains. Supermarke t chains, in order to survive, must do what they can to sell items cheaper than their competitors, try to increase the profit margin on products sold through marketing techniques, encourage consumers to increase consumption habits, impart brand loyalty on the customer, and, as always, lower labor costs (Ripsam et al. 2010). The competitive nature of grocery retail and the highly advanced technologies now available for inventory control, create the ever expanding need for a larger economy of scale (Lawrence & Burch 2007). Thus, horizontal expansion in the market is a key piece of resiliency, and has led to monopsonistic markets, with many producers and few retailers (Burch & Lawrence 2007). Th e growing economies of scale have also allowed for more vertical integration, including purchasing directly from suppliers rather than the open market, and the expansion of private labels to target specific groups of consumers (Burch & Lawrence 2007; Konefal et al. 2007). This has accelerated during the Great Recessio n as consumers are less willing to spend money for name brands, or for eating out (Food Marketing Institute 2012). As a result, "large retailers blur the boundaries between production and distribution through their direct and indirect influence over produ ct

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25 development" (Dixon 2008:105). This translates to a growing importance of standards for safety and ethics set by large grocers, which "represent a form of epistemic knowledge, intended to override the kinds of practical, local knowledge long employed i n food production and trade" (Freidberg 2007:321). Bigger grocers also translate to the aggressive pursuit of new and niche products with flexible labor practices and production technologies (Christopherson 1996; Burch & Lawrence 2007). Horizonta l and vertical integrations have led to some interesting trends. Retail capital accumulation is essentially tied to customer purchasing decisions at the point of exchange. This, coupled with "The dependence of larger retailers on a large market share mea ns that even a small change in consumer purchasing habits can have significant affects on profitability" (Konefal et al. 2007:284). As a result, supermarkets are sensitive to, and encouraging of, ethical consumer discourse, which politicizes shopping (Joh nston 2008). Supermarkets who sell a way of life,' however, must sell a lifestyle that supports the continued capital accumulation for the retailer (Dixon 2008). Discourse The word discourse' does not indicate some specific theory or concept. Instead, it points toward the realm within which language and ideology interact (Thompson 1984). Social scientists interested in discourse, then, are interested in more than an individual's cognitive linguistic faculties, and recognize the social contexts and impl ications of the use of language. This disposition is generally credited to Michel Foucault's works providing historical accounts of how different rationalities develop, and

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26 on the relationship between truth and power: "Each society has its regime of truth its general politics' of truth; that is, the types of discourse it harbors and causes to function as truth; the status of those who are charged with saying what counts as true" (Foucault 1977: 13 ). Discourse research, very generally, often studies "actu ally occurring instances of expression", exhibits a concern with linguistic units that exceed the limits of a single sentence", and shows "an interest in the relations between linguistic and non linguistic activity" (Thompson 1984:8). From a sociological standpoint, ideology and frame are two related terms with more specific theoretical development. Ideology is a word often used as a pejorative colloquially and academically (Thompson 1984; Oliver & Johnston 2005). Ideology can also be used neutrally to simply denote an idea system that contains both theory and values: "To study ideology, then, is to focus on systems of ideas which couple understandings of how the world works with ethical, moral, and normative principles that guide personal and collectiv e action" (Oliver & Johnston 2005:192). A more critical stance looks at the diversity of values and ethics in modern society, and focuses on the ways in which ideologies serve to legitimate and sustain domination (Thompson 1984; Van Dijk 1995). Ideologie s, then, are sociocognitive sublimates of group interests (Van Dijk 1995), and because language serves as an intermediary of social action, "ideology is partially constitutive of what, in our societies, is real'" (Thompson 1984:5). Studies often utilize ideology in a vague manner, however, and use it interchangea bly with frame,' which Oliver and Johnston (2005) argue is a different concept entirely. For analysis of discursive elements in Kroger supermarkets, ideology is perhaps too abstract a concept to be particularly useful. However, in the context of the corporate

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27 envi ronmental food regime, Gimenez and Shattuck (2011) outline four broad discursive ideological frameworks in discussing access to food. They argue neoliberal and reformist discourses ser ve to reinforce the third food regime, while progressive and radical discourses encourage fundamental resistance to it (Gimenez & Shattuck 2011). Neoliberal discourse seeks the expansion of markets and intensification of agriculture, while reformism argue s for food security by incorporating more developmentally sustainable practices into market relations. Progressive discourse advocates food justice and community empowerment, while radicalism is interested in food sovereignty (Gimenez & Shattuck 2011). T his research project will identify generally where Kroger stands ideologically in Chapter V. Frame analysis has its origins in an Erving Goffman (1974) book. In it, he calls frames schemata of interpretation', with which individuals pe rceive everyday experiences, and which guides action. This approach is typically utilized in social movement research (Benford & Snow 2000) and elite cultural studies (Young 2010). Frame theory encompasses a dialectical process between individual schemat a of interpretation and interaction: it "embraces both cognitive structures and the interactive processes of talk, persuasion, arguing, contestation, interpersonal influence, subtle rhetorical posturing, and outright marketing that modify indeed, conti nually modify the contents of interpretative frames" (Oliver & Johnston 2005:190). The act of framing is described as meaning work' (Benford & Snow 2000), and includes diagnostic, prognostic, and motivational framing tasks when applied to social moveme nts (Snow & Benford 1988). One way frames are developed is through contested processes of counterframing and dynamism between frames and events (Benford & Snow 2000).

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28 Importantly for this study, frames can diffuse beyond a social movement by an outside e ntity through strategic selection. In other words, another organization, like a supermarket, can actively appropriate framing references for its own purposes. Rationalizations & Shopping This research project uses a unique analytical scheme in order to study different ways Kroger helps to frame the ways consumers rationalize purchasing decisions. Those rationalizations are discussed in detail in the following sections, but they relate to the three contextual factors for framing processes provided by Ben ford & Snow (2000). The first factor is the political opportunity structure', referring in part to informal political relations, which are currently conditioned by perceived social and environmental risks. Secondly, cultural opportunities and constrain ts' relate to cultural metaphors available, which are carried out through enchantment strategies. Lastly, audience effects' indicate that frames are tailored to the intended audience. Publicly traded retail companies have two audiences: their customers and their shareholders. In a McDonaldized' society (Ritzer 2008), both audiences operate with individualized reason. A new analytical scheme is necessary for this research because most studies of consumptive patterns focus on elite shopp ing habits, or on political implications of shopping. This scheme offers three broad forms of rationality that encompass a wide range of consumer and marketing justifications for shopping decisions. These rationalities individualized reason, cosmopolit an risk, and enchantment allow for a largely inductive analysis of how larger discourses shape, and are shaped by, both customers and retailers. By including individualized reason and enchantment, the scheme tracks individualized concerns and cultural t rends in addition to the more

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29 politically influenced cosmopolitan risk. This is important because this research looks at Kroger, a retailer that has historically targeted customers looking for low prices. This analytical scheme, in other words, is highly useful for analysis of a wide range of retailers, from low end to high end, small to large scale, and can be used in conjunction with analysis of capital accumulation requirements. Additionally, a broad scheme for use on a wide range of retailers has bec ome necessary in the era of flexible accumulation, where ever changing political and cultural trends are quickly capitalized on in retail environments. Thus, trends in the political economy of consumption behaviors by retailers can be efficiently and mean ingfully tracked and compared based on the three contexts of framing mentioned above (Benford & Snow 2000). Individualized Reason Max Horkheimer's (1947[2004]) writing on the rise of instrumental reasoning in all aspects of social life is part of a l ong conversation on rationalization in the social sciences and humanities. He calls this process subjectivization, which operates on subjective reason. Subjective reason "is essentially concerned with means and ends, with the adequacy of procedures for p urposes more or less taken for granted and supposedly self explanatory" (Horkheimer 1947[2004]:3). Subjective reason is presented in contrast to justifying action based on some reasonable purpose. This concept is related to pragmatism, instrumental reaso ning, means end rationalization, utilitarianism, and formal rationality, even though there are certainly important distinctions among them. To simplify matters for the purpose of this analytical scheme, I use individualized reason to mean the rationalizat ion of means that most effectively fulfill individualized goals, as in value and healthfulness in the context of food. While Horkheimer (1947[2004]) is highly

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30 critical of Weber's pessimism, he specifically relates individualized reason to Weber's formal r ationality. In contemporary sociology, George Ritzer's (2008) theory of McDonaldization provides an updated and more nuanced version of Weber's theories on bureaucratization and formal rationality. The thesis is that the successes derived from efficien cies pioneered by fast food restaurants have led to the spread of those operating principles around the world and in more aspects of daily life: "McDonald's has succeeded because it offers consumers, workers, and managers efficiency, calculability, predic tability, and control" (Ritzer 2008:13). For Ritzer, this thesis provides a more essential perspective from which to think about other processes at work in society, lik e post Fordism and postmodernization Little escapes McDonaldization, in fact, as even inefficient and unreasonable phenomena are viewed as byproducts of rationalization (Ritzer 2008 ). While such dialectical reasoning is not impeachable in itself, critique of the thesis becomes challenging when very few and vague examples are given as to w hat is not McDonaldized. The offhand examples given are mom and pop grocery stores, bed and breakfasts, and livable communities, apparently because "It is difficult to think of social phenomena that have escaped McDonaldization totally" (Ritzer 2008:20 21 ). As an instrument of this analysis, McDonaldization is used to locate discursive frames that use individualized reason for purchasing decisions. This is a novel usage of McDonaldization, as it typically describes rationalization of production and ser vice. The rationalization that occurs, if indeed a purchasing decision is rationalized for the consumer, focuses on individualized ends. These concerns are typically framed around price, taste, health, convenience, or safety. Absent is a sense of respon sibility toward

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31 ecological health, social equity present or future, civic participation, or global security. Customers, in fact, expect retailers to service their wants and needs. In a competitive retail sector, customers have the option to shop elsewher e if that does not occur satisfactorily. At the heart of McDonaldization is consumption. Consumption is what drives economic trends. In order to attract consumers, retailers and entertainment businesses build cathedrals of consumption' (Ritzer 2010). Cathedrals include anything from fast food restaurants, shopping malls, and superstores to cruise ship s, and casinos (Ritzer 2010). The trends in the cathedrals of consumption have been emulated, for example, in museums and megachurches. The rationaliz ation of consumption through the cathedrals sometimes manifests by disenchanting the experience, and other times by enchanting it. For the purposes of this study, I will focus on individualized reason elements in McDonaldization. McDonaldization is attra ctive to a wide range of people because it is highly profitable, efficiency is valued by Americans, and it saves time for working families (Ritzer 2008). Cosmopolitan Risk The social theory of cosmopolitanization provides another perspective from which to view consumption patterns. In various literatures, cosmopolitanism involves culture and politics. Calhoun (2002) criticizes cultural manifestations of cosmopolitanism discussed below, as being too cozy with capitalism and notions of individual rights but argues it has the potential for providing solidarity in revolutionary praxis. Cosmopolitanism, however, can also signify a move toward purposeful reflexive action based on objective risks.

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32 U lrich Beck (1992) views cosmopolitanism as a political phenomenon altering the course of world history. His thesis is based on the notion of risk as forming the basis of reflexive rational action in modern society. As the world becomes more interconnected and advanced technologically, there is an increasing reality and awareness that climate change, ecological destruction, nuclear disasters, war, financial crises, and terrorist attacks pose fatal threats to humanity, no matter where they occur. Risk creates a basis for cosmopolitan imagined communities (Bec k 2011) that have real political implications, more so than class based politics (Beck 2012). A central research question for social sciences, therefore, is "how do societies deal with difference and borders under conditions of global interdependence cris es?" (Beck & Sznaider 2006:19). This analytical scheme allows for the study of that question in the context of retail marketing and consumption decisions. Cosmopolitan risks are objectively based concerns about sustainability, development, and local com munities. They provide a basis for purchasing products outside of subjectivized concerns for cheapness and control. To be clear, objectively based concerns can rely upon faulty science or on sublimated industry or political interests via industry funded scientific institutions. However, cosmopolitan risk concerns are not inward facing, but rather more global in focus. Cosmopolitan risks include rainforest destruction, stagnant development, poverty, hunger, gender inequality, climate change, nuclear powe r and weaponry, terrorism, species extinctions, resource extraction, overfishing, financial crises, overpopulation, food shortages, droughts, and so on. As the world becomes more interdependent in a globalized division of labor, and information becomes mo re readily available regarding potential risks, the possibility for more

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33 objectively based purpose oriented actions open up. In a supermarket, this often manifests in packaging that highlights a commodity's socially or environmentally sustainable features Enchantment Enchantment is a basis for purchasing decisions that is culturally rationalized. Currently, cosmopolitanism in a cultural sense represents important ways in which many consumers can access cultural capital, and attempt to fulfill that s ocial desire. It essentially involves an open and tolerant engagement with global cultural diversity (Hannerz 1990). Cosmopolitanism also affords social status to the individual that is more experienced, adventurous and knowledgeable about other customs that may be tab oo or unimaginable at home (Hann erz 1990). An important skill, then, is the ability to gain cultural capital by penetrating the commodity fetish that blocks knowing the other,' and to tap into versions of authenticity.' Products marketed with cosmopolitan risk discourse as socially responsible ( e.g., fair trade ) often provide information about the source of the product and how it was produced, forming a practical basis for an elite cultural repertoire (Johnston, Szabo & Rodney 2011). Cor porations have taken up branding strategies that attempt to tap into a cosmopolitan cultural stance (Bookman 2013), but it appears that for some urban youth cultures, branded versions of cosmopolitanism may not be authentic enough since they appeal to such a wide audience (Michael 2013). A hallmark of the era of flexible accumulation is the acceleration of time space compression (Harvey 1989), which facilitates cosmopolitan cultural activities. Due to rapid technological advances in transportation, produ ction and communication, time

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34 and space have become less restrictive to social and economic behavior. As consumers, individuals can pick and choose cosmopolitan influenced identities at will through commodities in a vending machine of ideologies' (Wrenn 2012). As Harvey (1989) notes: the primary effect has been to emphasize the values and virtues of instantaneity (instant and fast foods, meals, and other satisfactions) and of disposability (cups, plates, cutlery, packaging, napkins, clothing, etc.) It meant more than just throwing away produced goods (creating a monumental waste disposal problem), but also being able to throw away values, life styles, stable relationships, and attachments to things, buildings, places, people, and received ways o f doing and being. (286) The effect on consumptive habits has been a shift toward exchanging symbols and signifiers over the commodities themselves (Harvey 1989). The symbolic theme is also discussed by Ritzer (2010), who applies it to consumer demands for reenchantment.' Retailers use techniques of implosion and simulation to compete based on those demands (Ritzer 2010). The argument is that the general move toward excessive instrumental rationality in society has created a disenchanted world that op ens up a space for a reculturation, as well as repoliticization, of consumer experiences. Cathedrals of consumption, including retailers, have created enchantment for consumers through spectacle, extravaganzas, simulations, implosions of the means of cons umption, and implosions of time and space (Ritzer 2010). Simulations are artificially constructed spaces and interactions that copy some other historical time or cultural place (Ritzer 2010). In many supermarkets, there are now simulated bakeries, fishmo ngers, butcher shops, and sushi bars. Further, boundaries between different types of consumption settings are imploding (Ritzer 2010), bringing coffee shops and banks, for example, inside supermarkets.

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35 CHAPTER III METHOD Critical Discourse Analysis This study uses c ritical discourse a nalysis (CDA) methodology to analyze how capital accumulation and discourses interact in the Kroger shopping experience. I use methodology rather than method, because CDA is a topic centered orientation in which the research er develops an appropriate research process to study a theoretically derived problem (Fairclough, Mulderrig & Wodak 2011; Fairclough 2013 ). Discourse analysis views discourse as a powerful force through which language and symbols play a constitutive role in developing subjectivity (Johnston 2008 ). In other words, "discourse is socially constitutive as well as socially shaped" (Fairclough et al. 2011:358). Such an emphasis on semiotics has b een criticized as distracting from wider economic and technolog ical processes, as well as being generally incoherent in the realm of food studies (Goodman & Redclift 1991; Fine et al. 1996 ). However, a common theme to critical discourse approaches is a focus on the relations between concept and object' and how those are mediated by modes of capitalist productio n and consumption (Locke 2004 ). These capitalist mediations in discourse are especially important to power relations in the discourse driven' era of flexible acc umulation (Fairclough 2013 ). Thus, CDA researc h presents "a shared interest in the semiotic dimensions of power, injustice, abuse, and political economic or cultural change in society" (Fairclough et al. 2011:357), and in "the hegemonic potential of language which is both referentially vague and horta tory, when it is used by those in a position of power" (373). CDA moves beyond analysis of the mechanisms through which social reality is discursively formed by texts,

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36 to focus on how discourse culturally maintains hegemonic power relations like those fo und in the corporate environmental food regime (Johnston 2008 ). CDA is, therefore, the perfect methodology for analyzing capital and discourse together. A CDA approach is particularly adept at parsing out dialectical contradictions between consumer and re tailer, exchange and production, and consumerism and social responsibility. This is because "It is not analysis of discourse in itself' as one might take it to be, but analysis of dialectical relations between discourse and other objects, elements or mom ents, as well as analysis of the internal relations' of discourse" (Faircloug h 2013:4). Marketing tactics are often internally contradictory, as well as at odds with actual practices of the given company, since they are typically drawn from other organiz ations in the same sector. Such a reliance on common industry practices gives companies social legitimacy beyond economic profitability, even as it creates a disconnect between organizational marketing and operations (Meyer & Rowan 1977). Further, custom ers may influence retailer decisions, but marketing also scientifically exploits consumer desires for choice and convenience (Ritzer 2010 ) Johnston (2008) utilizes a CDA approach in her study of Whole Foods Market. Her analysis focuses on the citizen consumer hybrid' discourse employed in elite consumption settings. She finds that the conflicting ideologies of consumerism and citizenship are both employed to encourage increased consumption (Johnston 2008). A similar CDA approach is used here for the case of Kroger but the specific analytical scheme, discussed below, is unique A different analytical scheme has been developed in order to study a retailer with a wider customer base than high end retailers.

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37 Data I have selected Kroger for this case study because it is the largest dedicated grocery chain in America (Planet Retail 2012) and accounts for 11% of the grocer sector (Food Marketing Institute 2012). Further, it faces competition from Wal Mart in terms of cost and selection, and Whole Foods Market in the natural market (Cardenal 2014). In the realm of consumer discourse, Kroger is thus both in a position of power because of its size, and, to some degree, at the mercy of consumer discourses centered on ethics and elite cultural values. In ot her words, Kroger must stay on top of consumer trends in order to stay competitive but its market share also affords it the ability to create and redirect customer desires through widespread marketing. The data gathered for this study primarily consist o f texts in stores, on Kroger websites and social media pages, in business journalism, and other relevant websites. For journalistic sources, I utilized Google and YouTube search engines, and ProQuest and Ebsco business databases. Additional quantitative descriptive data of Kroger sales and financials were taken from Kroger's required reporting as a publicly traded company. The data collected include: (1) field notes from store visits; (2) textual materials published as brochures, in store signs, product packaging, and website information; (3) business articles and executive interviews; and (4) business financials. I conducted research visits to King Soopers supermarket locations in the Denver, Colorado, metropolitan area over the span of a four mont h period from December, 2013 to April, 2014. King Soopers has its headquarters in Denver, but is owned and operated by Kroger. Its website, for example, is identical to Kroger's, but with a King Soopers logo in the upper left corner instead of a Kroger l ogo. My

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38 purpose for the research visits was to study how Kroger "constructs a particular shopping experience that contributes to the larger" discourse, and constitutes' the consumer (Johnston 2008:234, in reference to Whole Foods Market). This is a vita l component in the study of how discourse and capital influence the supermarket experience. I visited four separate locations a minimum of four times each. One of those had been recently drastically remodeled, another was recently built brand new in the same style as the remodeled store, while the other two had not been updated in many years. While I did not find publicly published information regarding exact numbers of remodeled King Soopers stores, I estimate between 20 to 30 King Soopers and City Mark et stores have been built or remodeled in Colorado within the last six years 3 Company wide, Kroger spent $1.07 billion on construction and remodels, and remodeled 117 locations in 2012 (Kroger 2013 c ). This study is limited in scope in several ways. The four months in which data were collected limits the breadth of information analyzed. Further, by using a case study of just one company, it is possible that some of the trends found in Kroger are isolated to Kroger. Research trips to Kroger supermarkets were also confined to King Soopers stores in the Denver, Colorado metropolitan area. There may be subtle regional variations among Kroger stores that affect the findings. A potential criticism, then, is that the data presented may not be representative However, these concerns are relatively minor considering the purpose of the study, and given the extensive 3 I used locat ion finder search fields from Murray's Cheese Shop and JFE Franchising, Inc., web pages, as well as Google search for Colorado news of King Soopers and City Market remodels and construction projects, for cross referencing.

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39 information found on Kroger's numerous websites and social media presence, and in the business press. The CDA approach involves collecting a wi de range of types of data from various sources that can be analyzed in a meaningful way for tensions and contradictions. In studying how discourse and capital influence the Kroger shopping experience, CDA enables a targeted analysis of the data based on t he analytical scheme, rather than attempt to reconstruct some exhaustive -and likely nonexistent -coherent narrative put forth by Kroger. In other words, the findings will show if Kroger exhibits individualized, political, and cultural discourse frami ng in its marketing and branding tactics, and how it does so. Those findings can be juxtaposed with business strategies and priorities for capital accumulation. The end result will be able to empirically discuss how seriously Kroger takes various discour ses, how they appropriate and influence those discourses, and to what extent they are likely to influence future business decisions. Analytical Scheme For the purpose of locating tensions and contradictions within the shopping experience, this p aper utilizes an analytical scheme with three forms of rationality for shopping decisions: (1) individualized reason; (2) cosmopolitan risk; and (3) enchantment. The three levels of rationality are presented merely as ideal types for the purpose of analy sis. Both the consumer and the discourse employed in marketing may frame decisions utilizing multiple levels. The purpose of the scheme is to find potential contradictory tensions in supermarket discourse, and to present the discursive frames in conjunct ion with the necessities of capital accumulation.

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40 CHAPTER IV KROGER FINDINGS Kroger Operations & Business Strategies Kroger presents itself as a responsible company that cares about customers and communities. Its "Customer 1 st strategy, for example, has proven very successful over the last 10 plus years (Kroger 2013 d ). Their multi tiered brand strategy, in which Kroger offers separate private labels for different segments of the consumer market, has helped it stay profitable through recent economic turb ulence by offering cheap food, while also targeting consumer preferences in niche and elite markets. About 40% of their over 12,000 private label items are made in their own processing facilities (Kroger 2013 c ), a relatively high percentage in the superma rket sector (Konefal et al. 2007). In house production cuts out middlemen along the supply and distribution chain that cut into retailer profits. This represents a clear competitive advantage for Kroger, made possible by its economy of scale. Kroger's economy of scale comes from its long history of horizontal expansion in addition to its vertical integration. Kroger bought over one hundred Piggly Wiggly stores and over ninety Roanoke Grocery & Millings stores in the 1920s, three grocery chai ns in 1955, Market Basket in 1963, merged with Dillon grocery stores (including King Soopers, City Market, and Fry's) in 1983, and merged with Fred Meyer in 1999 (including Ralphs, QFC, and Smith's) (Progressive Grocer 2013). While there have been many st ore closures and sell offs sprinkled through Kroger's history, the general trend has been to enter new markets through mergers and acquisitions, especially since the mid 90's (Konefal et al. 2007). In 2013, Kroger bought the Southeastern upscale

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41 grocer y c hain Harris Teeter for $2.44 billion (Jargon & Gasparro 2013), the first large buy since 1999, when it merged with Northwest based Fred Meyer hypermarkets. As a publicly traded company, Kroger's ultimate responsibility is to its shareholders. Kroger openly states that its Customer 1 st strategy and mult tier private label approach are designed to maximize shareholder value (Kroger 2013 c ). Its financial goals include, to Achieve solid, steady identical sales growth Pay a dividend on a quarterly basis, with expectations of growing the dividend over time Increase capital investments by $200 million each year for several years to support the Company's goal of continual market share growth [and] Generate a return on invested capital that increa ses over time (Kroger 2013 c :53) In other words, the customer base must always expand in order to meet its obligations to shareholders. Kroger's business plan is not to be an exclusive retail destination, but to continually expand its market share. Yet Kroger also presents itself as an industry leader in sustainability and as a responsive provider of consumer demands. David Dillon, the former CEO, says "We're trying to apply our values to serving our customers. The results speak for themselves. Good ethics is good business" (Watkins 2014). Kroger's practice is to expand choices to match new demands in order to stay as profitable as possible. The new CEO, Rodney McMullen, says "I am excited to lead our efforts to build on Kroger's market position an d competitive advantages to drive value for our shareholders and to strengthen our deep connection with our great associates, our millions of customers and the communities we call home" (Kroger 2013 d ). Kroger seems to have it all: value for shareholders, choice for customers, environmental stewardship, and ethical business practices. The following sections show the different forms of rationalization found in Kroger's consumer experience.

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42 Individualized Reason Results In the 1990's we went through lot s of trauma, we were losing ground, and as a retailer, if you're losing ground that means you're becoming less relevant with the customer, and we had to face that music at some point. David Dillon, then CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors (KU Busi ness 2013) In order to gain trust and brand loyalty, retailers need to build efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control for customers. In other words, the kind of rationalized and convenient shopping experience developed through McDonaldizati on (Ritzer 2008). Supermarkets provide a plethora of options so that consumers can use individualized reason to control the food entering their households. The expectations of customers at least those willing to voice their displeasure online -are ev ident from this small sample of numerous complaints on King Soopers' Facebook page: Can someone explain to me how this has happened to us twice in the last month? BUGS in our simple truth lettuc e. Never shopping at Ks again. If your plastic bags are so thin you can't carry a glass jar of spaghetti sauce without it tearing and then breaking the jar you shouldn't offer them at all! cocktail shrimp seafood shop, from 7.99 to 10.99 in one and a half months. Ridiculous. Sunday 7am bennett king soo pers NO DONUTS out baker standing there racks of donuts but none boxed, a dozen customers waiting when I ask why there is no donuts his reply is whomever is working overslept Ok I know that's beyond his control but HELLO mr high n mighty baker there i s no I in team! (King Soopers 2014 d ) These customer complaints exhibit the individualized rationality of customers that cannot be ignored by retailers wishing to compete in a highly competitive market. The following are results found in Kroger marketing and operations that exhibit how it brands itself to customers on the basis of those expectations for convenience and choice.

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43 Efficiency and convenience are ubiquitous in Kroger's marketing of products and services. The framing often encourages the noti on that cooking is difficult and too time consuming, and that Kroger wants to make feeding family and friends easier: "Planning an Easter brunch doesn't have to be difficult. Your time is valuable, so leave the cooking to us, and order your brunch online "; "When it comes to preparing snacks suited to serve a small gathering, which is easer: slaving in the kitchen all day or ordering a few delicious Party Pans?"; "Sometimes we just don't have the time to prepare a gourmet meal. In those cases, we opt for convenience!"; and "The hustle and bustle of the holidays may be over, but we know the parties are endless. We're here to make things easier for you. Order a party platter online" (King Soopers 2014 d ). Notice the description of cooking as slaving' and difficult', and the sympathetic tone taken with the pronoun we.' The implication is that Kroger is on the side of busy people. King Soopers stores offer a free seafood preparation service called "Easy for you!", in which the customer chooses a species of fish and a seasoning blend, and the store employee prepares it all in an oven safe bag. The service even offers advice for what foods and wines go with fish and seasoning combinations. The selling point is that it offers a healthy, simple, and delici ous meal: "We season and seal it. You take it and bake it!" (King Soopers 2014 c ). Kroger stores also provide customers with a lot of calculability. Calculability is the value placed on "the quantitative aspects of products sold (portion size, cost ) and services offered (the time it takes to get the product)" (Ritzer 2008:14). King Soopers stores certainly emphasize the low prices and quick shopping that they offer, and provide customers enrolled in loyalty programs with targeted coupons to their h abits.

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44 Kroger also provides quantified nutritional information on every product. Each shelf tag includes a NuVal score, between 1 100, which lets the consumer now how healthy the product is. NuVal is an independently developed algorithm developed by nut rition scientists, and is licensed by Kroger. As a large presence in the food retail market, Kroger is pushing nutrition discourse toward quantifying and calculating nutrition for everyone, rather than emphasize the personal nature of health. Kroger pres ents the NuVal system as a way to quickly and quantifiably improve the individual's or family's health: "One glance is all it takes the higher the score, the better the nutrition!" (Kroger 2014 a ). Personal responsibility is also emphasized in store sign s: "Wellness is a choi ce take charge of your health"; and "Responsible choices today leads to better living tomorrow!" While Kroger offers thousands of cheap unhealthful options, it is the customer's responsibility to choose wisely. Thus, Kroger's role in society is to provide as many options as possible and to educate the consumer, but it is ultimately up to the consumer to make the right decision. Predictability is another important dimension of McDonaldization, and provides the customer with the a bility to rely on certain products to be the same between stores. A major avenue to accomplish this is through the multiple private label lines found in all Kroger stores. Products labeled with the Value brand are predictably some of the cheapest options available: "Our value brands allow Customers on a tight budget to discover the basics at budget friendly prices throughout the store. Stretching your budget can sometimes make all the difference to hel p you buy more of what you need" (Kroger 2014 g ). Aga in, Kroger is sympathetic and helpful for individuals struggling with a tight budget. For consumers willing and able

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45 to spend more money for natural and organic labeled products, all they have to do is find the Simple Truth label: You wanted a simpler w ay to shop for organic and natural products in our stores. The result? Simple Truth" (Kroger 2014 f ). Kroger is responding to the expanding consumer demand for organic and natural foods. Kroger is the second biggest retailer of natural foods and is aggr essively expanding this piece of their business. CEO Rodney McMullen says, "we can easily see how that business could double from where we are today We actually have a pretty good plan in place that will get us significantly along the way on getting ther e in a reasonable period of time" (Kraft 2013). The remodeled King Soopers stores include greatly expanded produce departments and organic sections, as well as more freezer space for processed natural' foods. This represents a good example of how a disc ourse like valuing natural and organic food can create a consumer demand that can rapidly impact production practices. The final dimension of McDonaldization is control. Kroger provides control for the consumer in a number of ways, but one way is to provide information that simplifies decision making in a store with 50,000 options. Kroger's private label for baby products, Comforts for Baby, gives its consumers a sense of control over their baby's nutrition and development, through its highly s cientific and controlled products: "We care about quality, so our products are tested by pediatricians and dermatologists to make sure they perform just right for you and your baby. Our wide selection of high quality formulas have all the nutrients your baby needs for a healthy first year" (Kroger 2011). The emphasis here is on the performance of the product to enable the family goal of controlling the development process of children. An in store

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46 pamphlet, "Seafood and Methylmercury Wha t You Need to Kno w" (Kroger 2014d ), gives customers firm advice regarding who should avoid which species of fish, and which seafood products can be relied upon to be safe. This information gives the customer the confidence to feel they have control over a potentially seri ous toxin. Additionally, Kroger offers the Simple Truth line of products that is free from 101 specified artificial ingredients, for customers concerned with toxic additives. One customer complained on King Soopers' (2014d) Facebook page about a specific ingredient found in some Kroger products, and this was the response: "We understand that some customers prefer foods that do not contain [azodicarbonamide] and encourage them to look for our Simple Truth and Simple Truth Organic product lines, which are free from many of the artificial preservatives and ingredients including ADA that some customers told us they don't want in their foods Again, the emphasis is on the customer's responsibility to control what ingredients he or she wants in their food Signs of individualized reason are everywhere in King Soopers stores. These marketing and branding tactics are aided by innovations in checkout technologies, production practices, distribution and inventory systems, and private supply regulations. T he highly competitive supermarket sector has pushed companies like Kroger to aggressively pursue these strategies in order to maintain customer loyalty. The expansion of choice and increased predictability align with the logic of retail capital. Retailer s gain market share by providing and encouraging profitable choices for consumers. We move now to cosmopolitan risk, which is potentially a more problematic discourse for supermarkets to employ.

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47 Cosmopolitan Risk Results What we are is a collection of 3 72,000 associates th at are helping make the world a better place everyday everyda y that's what our company does. Rodney McMullen, CEO (Economics Center 2014) Employing cosmopolitan risk discourse provides an opportunity to expand both the monetary val ue of specific products on the shelf, and the brand value of Kroger. Kroger also shows an awareness of their own legal risks in relation to fresh water sources for their bottled water when it states, "Drinking water, including bottled water, may reasonabl y be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants. The presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate that water poses a health risk" (King Soopers 2014 a ). Thus, Kroger both markets to risks, and adjusts its behavior with risks in mind. The following are examples of how Kroger frames social and environmental risks to its customers. Sustainability is a popular phrase today that retail businesses have a lot of interest in appropriating onto its products and brand. Kroger has a 69 page 2013 sustainability report online, for example, titled "Sustainability: Improving today to protect tomorrow", featuring a tree in the logo (Kroger 2013 a ). The way Kroger frames its move toward more sustainable practices is telling regarding retai l capital: "Our customers' interest in buying products with a more positive social and environment impact continues to grow. Therefore, Kroger continues to expand its natural, organic and eco friendly product choices" (Kroger 2013 a :15). Discourses regar ding environmental and social risks have provided a market niche for Kroger to capitalize on. Kroger does not claim to be leading customers, nor does it claim to be changing the product choices they already have. It is instead increasing consumptive

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48 choi ces: "Enabling Customer Sustainability Through Choice" (Kroger 2013 a :15). This is exhibited in the way Kroger frames its Simple Truth line: "Are you going green? Do you eat green foods? Are you being earth friendly? We can help you"; and "Simple Trut h also aids in our efforts to be green for earth's sake" (Kroger 2014 f ). Kroger is encouraging a consumer ethic for those resolving to do something about environmental degradation, and frames those decisions as our efforts.' Thus, Kroger wants the custo mer to think of Kroger as a helpful partner in developing environmentally conscious action. Expanding choices for consumers, however, is fundamentally contradictory to the spirit of sustainability. This strategy of providing more options manifests itself for example, in the expanding square footage of King Soopers stores in Colorado, as they are remodeled: "We see the opportunity for better serving the community with more square footage," said a King Soopers project manager (Woullard 2013). Rather than take valid environmental concerns seriously enough to try to alter product selection, whole existing production lines and supply chains, new product lines are simply added that can be marketed as sustainable.' In this sense, Kroger now propagates the co ntradictory idea that sustainability can be achieved through increased consumption in much the same way that Whole Foods Market has been doing for many years (Johnston 2008). Kroger pushes the notion that shopping there helps support natural systems o f production and consumption. A prime example is King Soopers' plastic bags offered at checkout. They feature a logo that reads "Earth Sound," a claim impossible to rectify on a material so copious through the store and so damaging to ecosystems even w ith marginal recycling in production and disposal. Additionally, Simple Truth Organic items

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49 apparently use production standards that "foster the recycling of resources, promote ecological balance and help conserve biodiversity" (Kroger 2013 a :15). Thus, t he consumer can increase consumption while saving the environment and eating healthier. The framing of Simple Truth products also utilizes an ethic of naturalness' as opposed to food science: "Cook up something fresh and simple with one of these recipes featuring Simple Truth and Simple Truth Organic products. They taste as delicious as they look and they're closer to what nature intended" (Kroger 2014 f ). This example seems to imply that other food processors are meddling with what nature already prov ides to the detriment of consumers. However, a lawsuit has been filed against Kroger alleging that Simple Truth fresh chicken labels are deceptive, and that the chickens are raised according to standard industry practices (Huffstutter 2014). Conventional ly labeled and priced -chicken products are still offered, so customers have the choice to pick and choose when they want to purchase a more expensive product that is supposedly better for the animals and environment. Kroger has moved toward only of fering sustainable options on its shelves in its seafood department. A statement promoting this move was posted on the King Soopers (2014d) Facebook page, and the same text was used for an in store announcement over the intercom system during a research v isit: "For Earth month, we're celebrating fresh, sustainable wild caught seafood. At King Soopers, we're taking steps to ensure the variety of fish you enjoy today is ava ilable for future generations." This framing makes it sound as if King Soopers is a n active agent for long term environmental responsibility. Its stated goal is to source 100% of the most popular 20 species of its wild caught seafood from Marine Stewardship Council

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50 (MSC) certified suppliers by 2015. Kroger is also working toward sourci ng its farmed fish from suppliers that rate on the Global Aquaculture Alliance's Best Aquaculture Practices scale by 2015. Further, Kroger is "actively supporting a number of Fishery Improvement Projects in cooperation with [the World Wildlife Fund]" (Kro ger 2014 e ). Their latest public assessment places them at 68% of their goal (Kroger 2013 a ). The move toward sourcing seafood from more sustainable sources is laudable, and carries real weight, considering the size of Kroger. This is a prime example of t he potential power that retail capital carries: in order to access Kroger's 11% of the American retail market, suppliers must conform to less damaging practices. As retail capital accumulation dictates, however, Kroger has a real need to ensure reliabl e supplies of seafood for its customers. The question becomes, can Kroger satisfy the requirements of capital to always expand, adhere to strict sustainability standards, and ensure supply of fresh seafood for more and more customers? A critical analysis must answer no,' as the health of the oceans continues to deteriorate. The MSC has come under heavy criticism for its quick certification of suppliers without adequate information regarding fishing practices or fish stocks (Zwerdling & Williams 2013). It appears that retail capital's appetite for certified sustainable' seafood has already led to severe slippage in standards. Wal Mart was the first large retailer to commit to increasing MSC certified fish in 2006, and other retailers like Kroger follow ed suit. Since then, seven times as many fisheries have been certified sustainable by the MSC versus the same period prior (Zwerdling & Williams 2013). In fact, the MSC does not certify fisheries themselves; rather fisheries must pay a private certificat ion company to conduct the audit. Out of 210

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51 applications, only 10 fisheries have been rejected, and certification is often awarded with merely the promise to change practices or provide relevant data 5 years down the road (Zwerdlign & Williams 2013). Cl early, tensions exist between retailers' move toward expanding ethical consumption and the ability to harvest seafood in a truly sustainable way. Kroger prides itself on reducing energy use, trash, and wasted food. Through use of LED motion sensor lighti ng and other energy efficient technologies, Kroger's carbon footprint in 2012 was 4.85% less than 2011 (Kroger 2013 a ). Additionally, wind turbines and solar panels have been installed at some facilities, and one distribution center produces its own biogas for some of its energy use (Kroger 2013 a ). In 2012, Kroger's manufacturing plants reduced water usage by 27 million gallons from 2011 (Kroger 2013 a ). Through an efficient food donations program, recycling, and food composting, Kroger is aiming to divert at least 90% of its waste from landfills, and was already at 58% in 2012 (Kroger 2013 a ). These sorts of resource efficient programs make a lot of sense for businesses concerned with input and energy costs. Assuming the numbers are not outrageously infla ted or misleading, the programs set in place and the results derived from Kroger's efforts to increase efficiencies and reduce wasted energy and food are impressive, and exhibit a real social benefit to sustainable branding strategies. Finally, Krog er presents itself as a company that supports both local community development and international development. King Soopers produce department signs, for example, claim "We've supported local farmers for over 60 years." By we' the sign means King Soopers before and after its merger with Kroger, but left unstated is what

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52 supported' indicates exactly, as the majority of the produce found in King Soopers stores are not from Colorado, and often from outside the U.S. Additionally, King Soopers states, "Color ado Proud: Good for you, Good for Colorado"; and "Buying Colorado not only supports our statewide economy, but also means healthier consumer products!" (King Soopers 2014 b ). Kroger also claims it "has a positive impact on the communities in which we oper ate," through jobs and capital investments, as well as its support of over 30,000 schools and community organizations (Kroger 2013 a :56 57). An example of community organizations it supports is food banks, for which it states, "The Kroger family of stores is committed to helping families put fresh, wholesome food on their tables every day (Kroger 2013 b ). The emphasis on the word family' carries forth to how Kroger traces its history of philanthropy: "When Barney Kroger began donating loaves of bread to the poor each week in the early days of his business, Kroger's long history of fighting hunger in communities it serves was born. Nearly 130 years later, the Kroger family of stores is still leading the fight to help local families struggling to put food on their tables" (Kroger 2013 b ). Further, Kroger positions itself as morally on par with the customer for its responsibilities to hungry families: "Whether dropping spare change into specially marked coin canisters, purchasing nonperishable food for in s tore food drives, or adding a small donation to your local food bank to your bill, it all adds up to a shared goal neighbors helping neighbors" (Kroger 2013 b ). The implication is that Kroger is just another neighbor in a local community trying to coordi nate help for other neighbors in need. However, in 2012 alone it spent $1.5 billion on shareholder dividends and buybacks, as well as $2 billion on capital projects. Kroger donated $48.5 million to non profit organizations, in addition to donating $5.9 m illion to breast cancer awareness,

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53 and $3.3 million to the USO (Kroger 2013 a ). Left unstated is that those billions of dollars in profit are extracted from local communities and distributed as Kroger executives see fit. Instead of lowering prices, paying suppliers more, or paying their workers more, Kroger gets to decide how much money they want to donate and reinvest each year, while local grocers, if any are left, feel the weight of Kroger's economy of scale. Yet, Kroger frames its company's past and p resent activities as working against hunger. With respect to global development, Kroger says it has "more than doubled the number of Fair Trade Certified products" it carries over a few years (Kroger 2013 a :17). It is unclear what the base amount was, and it has focused on coffee, tea and chocolate products, i.e. luxury items. This is an easy branding tactic for Kroger that has little clear impact on actual global systems of labor (Hughes 2007). A quick trip to King Soopers reveals that one of the mo st conspicuous examples of fair trade items are the numerous options of individually wrapped 12 packs of single cup Keurig fair trade coffee products, from Green Mountain Coffee and the Simple Truth line. These are certified by Fair Trade USA, which depar ted from the Fair Trade International coalition in late 2011 in order to loosen rules specifically for coffee certification (Fair Trade Vancouver 2011). In fact, the King Soopers closest to my house features a section of Keurig products 10 feet long and s even shelves high. The fair trade items only add about a 50 cent premium to the non certified options, which certainly makes them affordable for most consumers, but the convenience of sing serve wrapping is wildly wasteful of natural resources. Kroger's Private Selection line of coffee, which is not packaged single serve, does come with a Rainforest Alliance

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54 certification, but only for 40% of the beans. Retail capital accumulation, again, appears to have led to slippage in standards for sustainability, i n service of providing choice and convenience for shoppers. Enchantment Results Sushi is different from other pe rishables. It's show business. JFE Franchising, Inc. (JFE 2014) The addition of monetary value through symbolic enchantment is n ot clearly observed in older King Soopers stores, nor is it explicitly stated as a strategy in the business press or company press releases. However, it is worth noting that all of the King Soopers stores remod eled in the last six years exhibit a mo ve toward enchanted simulations, and Kroger s Private Selection line of products feature many enchantment buzzwords. The remodeled stores feature produce departments prominently labeled as "The Garden", and islands of simulated fine cheese shops and sushi bars Private Selection labeled products are sold as high quality food products that are gourmet or authentic in some way. This is the way Kroger frames this private label: Private Selection gourmet and artisan foods are the work of years of development testing and practice. We source only the freshest ingredients to bring you gourmet foods and products inspired by food artisans who hone their craft to perfection. Our authenticity ensures culinary experiences that enliven your sense of good taste. (Kroger 2014 b ) The words gourmet', artisan', craft', authenticity', and culinary experience' all point toward a rationalized enchanted experience that the customer can access through the experts and artisans at Private Selection. Private Selection also employs the language of simulation, by implying they provide a similar, but improved, service of a quality local deli: "Something happens when you use only authentic, delicious ingredients. You get something special Inspired by old world tradition and sold exclusively at our deli

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55 counters, Private Selection is the 21 st century version of the corner delicatessen, only better" (Kroger 2013 e ). An improvement over tradition is a common theme for Private Selection frames, as this odd statement exhibits: "If you haven't tried Private Selection yet, you're in for a real treat. One bite and you'll see that authentic and delicious are no longer mutually exclusive" (Kroger 2013 e ). The improvement on traditional flavors also includes the promise to offer cu lturally popular elements in their products: "Our gourmet and artisan lines continually change as food trends evolve, so you can be sure we're always offering you the best" (Kroger 2014 b ). Private Selection products thus offer the customers enchanted expe riences at home, based on world traditions, gourmet taste, and popular food trends. Kroger partners with New York City based fine cheese shop Murray's in remodeled and new stores all over the country. The cheese island employees are hired and paid by Kroger, bu t trained by Murray's. As Kroger puts it, "Since its founding in 1940, Murray's Cheese has been an essential part of New York's vibrant food scene in Greenwich Village" (King Soopers 2014 e ). By shopping at King Soopers, then, the average consumer has acc ess to a cultural encounter they would not have otherwise: "The Murray's Experience: At Murray's, you'll find more than 175 cheese varieties from tried and true favorites to rare and unique discoveries" (King Soopers 2014 e ). In the stores, the Murray' s staff members are called Cheesemasters', and culturally relevant phrases are scattered about on signs, like stinky cheese', which challenge the customers to be cosmopolitan enough to appreciate cheeses not widely consumed in America. The Murray's isla nd at the King Soopers near my house had an "April in Paris" theme for April, 2014. French cheeses were highlighted and customers were encouraged to try

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56 those cheeses to expand their cultural food repertoire. The consumer is given a simulated worldly exp erience with knowledgeable staff and free samples for artisanal cheeses from around the world. The sushi islands in King Soopers, operated by JFE Franchising, Inc. (JFE), include Asian looking employees conspicuously working in black chef coats and cap s under signs that read, "Fresh sushi made daily." The Western customer enjoys the cosmopolitan privilege of feeling as if they are stepping into a piece of Japan during their grocery shopping trip, and the staff members are deemed, "Your personal sushi c hef." According to JFE, "customers remind each other and us every day where and for what they're looking. They want fresh, fun and the unconventional experience that popularized sushi" (JFE 2014). JFE places an emphasis on the simulated customer experie nce it offers through its services, with marketing frames like, "We've taken sushi back to its show business origins"; "Exceptional restaurant quality sushi!"; and "sushi kiosks have become vital to the transition of grocery delis to eating destinations" (JFE 2014). Thus, enchanted simulations in supermarkets are not only intended to compete with other supermarkets, but with restaurants as well. While not contradictory to retail capital accumulation, this trend toward enchantment in Kroger supermarkets m ay represent an interesting move toward utilizing enchanted rationality in retail spaces targeted to value shoppers.

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57 CHAPTER V DISCUSSION & CONCLUSIONS Kroger Discourse The critical discourse analysis approach utilized in this study shows that Kroger supermarkets, to varying degrees, frames its marketing and branding strategies across the three broad categories of rational discourse: individualized reason, cosmopolitan risk, and enchantment. Older King Soopers stores are already hi ghly McDonaldized, with a very rational and scientific layout (Ritzer 2010) to ensure both an efficient shopping trip, and to maximize opportunities for encouraging impulse shopping. Customers are encouraged to make individualized decisions based on price, nutritional value, taste, and so forth. Remodeled King Soopers feature convenient drive through windows for the pharmacy, as well as more product choices with more square footage. Meeting consumer expectations for choice and efficiency is clearly still a major conce rn and point of competition for American supermarket companies. New and updated King Soopers exhibit very strong emergent tendencies toward framing its brand and products within cosmopolitan risk and enchantment discourses. As a company, Kroger has aggres sively pursued many programs aimed at branding itself as a socially responsible company. This is framed within its "Customer 1 st strategy, meaning it wants to give the appearance that it is merely responding to customer requests for more environmentally and socially sustainable practices. Kroger's ability within the wider contemporary discourse of sustainability to bolster its brand through publishing reports regarding its environmental and social programs shows the power of discourse under the current r egime of capital accumulation. The

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58 potential success of such a branding strategy provides a real incentive to reduce carbon emissions and source certified sustainable commodities. It provides the space within which a company may use agency to begin to ad dress environmental and social hazards, through appealing to consumer sentiments. Remodeled King Soopers, for example, feature larger produce sections and conspicuously efficient LED lit freezer cases that turn on and off according to motion sensors. As Kroger approaches its goal of sourcing fresh seafood from 3 rd party certified sustainable suppliers, this will likely become advertised more aggressively. Kroger is clearly testing an enchanted experiences strategy with its Private Selection label, and in remodeled King Soopers supermarkets with fine cheese and fresh sushi experiences made available to the masses. Such cultural experiences and in store eating opportunities show that American supermarkets targeting value minded shoppers are beginning to com pete based on enchantment strategies. This is significant because, up until a few years ago, higher end grocers like Whole Foods Market used these strategies to differentiate themselves from bigger chains. How elite consumption patterns will shift in res ponse to this emerging trend is an open question. Kroger likely would not have provided many examples of enchantment or cosmopolitan risk rationalizations only ten years ago. Wal Mart seems to be going the same route with its major moves into the organic s market. The shift toward political and cultural discourse employment by supermarket chains like Kroger and Wal Mart may have significant long term effects on a wide range of customers, as well as global supply chains for sustainable' and natural' prod ucts, and culturally trendy foods. Kroger, in other words, cannot exclude low income and low education customers in its

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59 branding and marketing strategies since it requires a much larger customer base for its success than a Whole Foods Market does. The su ccessful appropriation of political and cultural discourses by Kroger shows that those concerns about food are extending beyond elite consumer circles, at least in part because Kroger is bringing those discourses to its stores. As a context for the w ay in which Kroger frames wider food discourse trends, Gimenez and Shattuck (2011) provide four categories for how people argue food systems should operate. Kroger, at its most socially conscious, operates within reformist ideologies, which "employ a cautious food security discourse and seek to mainstream less socially and environmentally damaging alternatives into e xisting market structur es" (Gime nez & Shattuck 2011:121). It is in large retailers' best interests to attempt to steer consumers away from community and anti market discourses, and it is no surprise Kroger is not seeking out communal food sovereignty solutions to social and env ironmental problems in its practices or its framing of discourse. In fact, its cosmopolitan risk framing typically encourages a consumerist, personal choice ethic, versus highlighting some form of solidarity. It is with this framing that Kroger ultimatel y removes itself from any serious social or environmental responsibility since it is always up to the customer to make the responsible choices. As big supermarket chains like Kroger frame marketing tactics in cosmopolitan risk and ench antment discourses, the challenge for smaller grocers and more high end chains will be to continue to differentiate their brands. It is highly possible, maybe even likely, that other supermarkets will continue to push the envelope with stricter and strict er social, environmental, and cultural standards as the only way to

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60 accomplish this task. There may even be a push toward more progressive or radical di scourses and supply chains although Whole Foods Market's leadership, for one appears committed to a libertarian ideology (Johnston 2008). Perhaps a more important trend that does not appear to be slowing anytime soon is the rapid consolidation taking place in the supermarket sector. Kroger Retail Capital The rise in importance and cultural diffusion of cosmopolitan risk and enchantment discourses lead Kroger not to rethinking their obligations and responsibilities as a company, but to simply increasing the number of private label brands and expanding options. Consumers, as McDonaldized rational subjects, clearly value convenience and choice, and Kroger has shown itself to be perfectly willing to capitalize on these tendencies with the instances highlighted in this paper of wasteful packaging and overstated cl aims of social and environmental responsibility. Further, the ultimate business goal of continuous sales growth and expansion of market share leads to marketing tactics that both employ political and cultural discourses, while also aggressively encouraging incre ased consumption for the customers. While discourse can be framed in creative and malleable ways, capital must always expand. Discourse can have a real impact on business practices, but discourse cannot transform the nature of capital, which must always overcome barriers to its accumulation. For example, cosmopolitan risks associated with climate change have led to a sustainability discourse that Kroger can employ within its branding strategy through reducing its environmental impacts. The increases in efficiency have the added bonus of reducing energy inputs for Kroger. Climate change, however, is

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61 partially fueled by overconsumption in advanced capitalist societies. Kroger cannot satisfy its obligations to its shareholders by encouraging consumers to reduce their consumption patterns to levels the planet could sustain for all people. The expansion of options for customers and the encouragement to buy more, in short, is fundamentally contradictory to true sustainability. Additionally, retailers have an interest in making customers feel good about purchasing decisions. Retailers have a real incentive to exaggerate in its framing of discourses, and consumers should be highly skeptical of all claims to sustainability or social responsibility. An import ant finding of this research with respect to the rise of supermarket horizontal integration over large food processors is the emergence of experience vendors in Kroger within the last few years. Murray's cheese company and JFE are two very rapidly expandi ng companies that operate within Kroger stores not as food processors, but as noncompetitive vendors that offer cultural experiences for customers. Thus far, Murray's has only partnered with Kroger in this venture. However, in addition to Kroger stores, JFE also operates in university campuses, Sprouts Farmers Market, Albertsons, Costco, Carrefour (French supermarket chain), and Coles (Australia supermarket chain) (JFE 2014). JFE only entered King Soopers stores in 2012, so the long term implications are unclear. Yet, with razor thin supermarket profit margins, grocers could become reliant upon similarly successful experience vendors. It is difficult to imagine a situation where such vendors have significant power over supermarkets and a range of supply chains, but they could further enable large supermarket chains like Kroger to force out smaller grocers that cannot compete in offering culturally relevant experiences.

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62 U.S. Supermarkets & the Food Regime As a critical study, this paper attempt s to shed some light on how consumptive patterns in American supermarkets relate to worldwide systems of agricultural production and distribution. This is a difficult task, but an essential piece is how food standards are regulated. The current food regi me trend toward private regulation of food safety, sustainability, and quality is a crucial piece to how American supermarkets are able to offer differentiated products for various niches. Private regulation of food standards involves selective appropria tion by food corporations of social movement demands for environmental, food safety, animal welfare and fair trade relations, with the potential of deepening social inequality globally (at the expense of peasants and poor consumers) as private regulatio n displaces public responsibilities (McMichael & Friedmann 2007:306, quoted from McMichael forthcoming) As this study has demonstrated, the appropriation of demands for quality and socially responsible products occur within an individualized rationa l context. Supermarkets compete in quantity of selection and the reliability that those tens of thousands of products will always be in stock. Price competition is always salient, as suppliers and distributers are pushed to reduce costs. The burden on a gri food sectors in other countries to supply American supermarkets is high. Consumption habits in America, and other wealthy countries, must also be placed in the context of the global currency and financial system. The worldwide neoliberal regime opera tes through dependency on the viability of the U.S. dollar, and on the freedom of financial capital to flow from Wall Street and London, for example, to where it can profit. Structural adjustment programs over the last 30 years have been induced and inten sified by financialization. This process has dispossessed peasants of

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63 their land and livelihoods the world over. One result has been an inexpensive cornucopia of food in U.S. supermarkets, and increased consumption of low quality processed food for the d eveloping world: "The dispossessed and the very poor must buy, if they can, edible commodities very different both from what used to be available in local or national food systems, and from the quality' meals offered to elites in all countries" (McMichae l & Friedmann 2007:293). Kroger does not promote the notion that purchasing decisions can provide a more equitable global food system. King Soopers stores do emphasize their Colorado products in grocery and produce as a way for shoppers to support local producers. Kroger also has a food donations program that drastically reduces food wastes from their stores (Kroger 2013 a ). From a food regimes perspective, such localized marketing and donations do not contribute to the food regime, but neither do they transform it. More saliently, some King Soopers produce departments sport signs that read, "Healthy food that promotes a healthy planet!" This message, alongside many large pictures of Colorado farmers in their fields, rest above produce from all over th e U.S. and Latin America, as well as small portions of greens packaged in plastic from huge firms like Dole. The framing of health food as also good for the planet has clear tensions with the realities of the global food regime. The ecological contradi ctions within the current food regime will become more and more apparent as climate change accelerates and monoculture export agriculture becomes increasingly difficult and expensive. Importantly, "The ability of firms to mobilise labour and get crops fro m fields depends on social and natural conditions outside the purview of what can be incorporated into green' or ethical' commodities"

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64 (McMichael & Friedmann 2007:295). A shade grown coffee bean product from a fair trade source may be socially and envir onmentally preferable to the alternative, but the production process may still not be ultimately locally socially or environmentally sustainable. An essential element of the corporate environmental food regime is the financialization that has occurred wit hin the wider neoliberal global economy. Many retailers are now acting with financialization in reverse' (Burch & Lawrence 2009), and Kroger is no exception. Kroger Real Estate leases shopping center spaces next to Kroger stores, and sells off other pro perties. Its website states, "Kroger Real Estate is committed to recycling its outgrown locations with new users, and working with the communities in which we serve to ensure that our closed locations are left in good hands for the future" (Kroger 2014 c ). The opening up of a real estate division or separate company is a common practice by private equity companies. In the older King Soopers stores visited, the customer service desk is featured prominently as the customer enters the store. A large banner hangs in the entrance advertising its money services, which include check cashing, money wiring services, and bill paying. Such banking services open up opportunities for extracting interest from cash strapped customers. In fact, these older stores are i n less affluent neighborhoods than the updated ones, which place the customer service desk in a less conspicuous location. Conclusions In the highly competitive American supermarket sector, market consolidation has increased dramatically since the mid 1990s, and small shifts in consumer tastes have big affects on success (Konefal et al. 2007). As regulation of production and

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65 distribution has become more privatized in the current food regime, and as technology has advanced, supermarkets have more opportunities to appropriate tastes quickly and to differentiate products. Supermarkets, then, represent an important site for study of dialectical movements in and between -food production and consumption. This study contributes to literatures on retail horizonta l integration, supermarkets, food regimes, and food systems in a few important ways. It offers a new analytical scheme with which any retailer can be studied, rather than just high end companies like Whole Foods Market. Secondly, it presents an interesti ng way to utilize the theory of McDonaldization (Ritzer 2008) by applying it to customer expectations and marketing tactics, rather than as merely a rationalization of production and service. Thirdly, it provides a fresh example of how the theory of risk society, and the problem of borders in interdependence crises', can be empirically tracked through critical discourse analysis in a retail setting (Beck & Sznaider 2006). Fourthly, it argues that the food regimes perspective would benefit from an inclusi on of Foucault's (1977) concept of truth regime' in explaining how the corporate environmental food regime is maintained in centers of hegemony, like America, and provides an example of how to empirically support that claim. Fifthly, it is a move toward filling the gap in the political economy of consumption literature for analysis of American supermarkets, which are coming to have significant global implications as that sector rapidly concentrates. Lastly, it provides evidence of an emergent trend in Am erica of spill over to value conscious consumers of political, cultural, and social discourses and values from political movements and high end retailers.

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66 The first major takeaway from this paper is that the location of purchase for food items matters, o ver and above what product is purchased. As large retailers expand horizontally, they are able to exert more and more pressure unilaterally on production practices. Buying a fair trade tea at Kroger does not just support fair trade suppliers, it also pro vides a small contribution to the capital available for Kroger to increase its economy of scale, and to leverage that size over supply chains. In the case of Kroger, capital reinvestment also includes investments in energy efficient equipment and logistic al systems, as well as providing market access to local farmers and producers. However, shopping at expanding supermarket businesses also means supporting a movement toward a retail environment in which supermarkets can demand lower prices and more fees f rom suppliers. Increased market share for the supermarket chain allows for more power to potentially respond to consumer social and environmental demands, while raising its power to potentially drive food prices down for producers and put smaller grocers out of business. Secondly, individual shopping decisions at a Kroger supermarket with 50,000 options should not be mistaken for transformative political actions with respect to cosmopolitan risks and the global food regime. Buying a local apple in Septemb er is nice, but the supermarket will still offer New Zealand apples in July, and customers will ostensibly continue to expect a large number of choices year round at cheap prices. Convenience, assortment, and prices are the most important factors for Amer ican consumers when they choose a grocer, far more so than sustainable or natural selection (Food Marketing Institute 2012). Further, fair trade luxury goods, like coffee, may do wonderful things for those select few coffee farmers, but a truly

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67 fair globa l trade system for grains and proteins would require a revolutionary shift away from Western agricultural subsidies and international free flow of capital. A potentially transformative grocer model would include severely limiting product selection, and of fering those products at prices far higher than typically seen in America. Given the regular cycle of crises in capitalism, there will continue to be times when tens of millions of Americans will simply be unwilling to individually shop in a transformativ e manner, even given the motivation and knowledge necessary, as the huge dip in organics sales in 2009 exhibited (Food Marketing Institute 2012). Lastly, discourse should be viewed as a realm of contention between shoppers, retailers, producers, di stributors, the media, and so on. It is not controlled by supermarkets, or by capital. While its framing is tempered by capital within a competitive market context, it does carry potential weight for transformative social action. Cultural emphases not to mention the economic necessity for struggling people on do it yourself' household practical activities and local food has opened up opportunities for supermarkets to profit from. It has also, however, led to a significant communal urban agricultura l movement. Examples can be found all over America, including Denver's Green Leaf, a youth centered, educational food justice minded urban farm. Discursive struggles, aided by the democratic dispersal of information on the internet, can expose political and economic contradictions, opening up the possibility of informing and inciting transformative praxis. This project started with the question: H ow do discourse and capital shape the supermarket experience in America? I have found that discourse is c onditionally important within the context of a flexible capital accumulation regime. Retailers do

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68 exert power over supply chains, and they are somewhat responsive to consumer demands for socially and environmentally ethical practices. For Kroger, this ha s translated to investments in energy efficient equipment and logistics in company operations, the move toward only offering MSC certified wild caught seafood, offering more local and organic produce, and the addition of minimally processed private label o ptions. Kroger frames its ideologically reformist marketing in a way that promotes consumption and the importance of individual shopping decisions for personal health and environmental stewardship. We are left with this paradox: customers, along with so cial and environmental discourses, are given more power over supply chains as supermarkets increase their market share, yet that very consolidation is predicated on expanding and cheapening options for wasteful consumption.

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73 Jargon, Julie and Annie Gasparro. 2013. Kroger Tastes Go Upscale: $2.44 Billion Deal for Harris Teeter Adds Higher End Stores." Wall Street Journal July 9. Retrieved March 9, 2014 ( http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/ SB10 001424127887323368704578595310330531012 ). JFE. 2014. "Home Page." Houston, TX: JFE Franchising, Inc. Retrieved April 14, 2014 ( http://jfefoods.com/ ). Johnston, Josee. 2008. "The Citizen consumer Hybrid: Ideological Tensions and the Case of Who le Foods Market." Theory and Society 37(3):229 270. Johnston, Josee, Michelle Szabo and Alexandra Rodney. 2011. "Good Food, Good People: Understanding the Cultural Repertoire of Ethical Eating." Journal of Consumer Culture 11(3):293 318. King So opers. 2014 a "Bottled Water Information Statement." Cincinnati, OH: The Kroger Co. Retrieved April 13, 2014 ( https://www.kingsoopers.com/asset/ 52012eb184aedc3da24a607d?data=1 ). King Soopers. 2014 b "Colorado Proud." Cincinnati, OH: The Kroge r Co. Retrieved April 13, 2014 ( https://www.kingsoopers.com/topic/colorado proud ). King Soopers. 2014 c "Easy for you! Seafood." Cincinnati, OH: The Kroger Co. Retrieved in store on April 15, 2014. King Soopers. 2014 d "King Soopers Facebook Pa ge." Cincinnati, OH: The Kroger Co. Retrieved April 13, 2014 ( https://www.facebook.com/kingsoopers ). King Soopers. 2014 e "Murray's Cheese." Cincinnati, OH: The Kroger Co. Retrieved April 13, 2014 ( https://www.kingsoopers.com/topic/murrays chees e ). Konefal, Jason, Carmen Bain, Michael Mascarenhas and Lawrence Busch. 2007. "Supermarkets and Supply C hains in North America." Pp. 268 288 in Supermarkets and Agri food Supply Chains: Transformations in the Production and Consumption of Food s ed. by D. Burch and G. Lawrence. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar. Konefal, Jason, Michael Mascarenhas and Maki Hatanaka. 2005. "Governance in the Global Agro food System: Backlighting the Role of Transnational Supermarket Chains." Agriculture a nd Human Values 22(3):292 302. Kraft, AnnaLisa. 2013. "5 Shocking Facts About Buying Groceries in the U.S." The Motley Fool December 21. Retrieved January 17, 2014 ( http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/12/21/5 shocking facts about buying gr oceries in the us.aspx ).

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