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Sustainability 2017, 9(10), 1748; doi:10.3390/su9101748

Review
Food and Gastronomy for Sustainable Place Development: A Multidisciplinary Analysis of Different Theoretical Approaches
Chiara Rinaldi
Department of Business Administration, School of Business, Economics and Law, University of Gothenburg, Vasagatan 1, PO Box 100, 40530 Gothenburg, Sweden
Received: 18 August 2017 / Accepted: 25 September 2017 / Published: 28 September 2017

Abstract

:
Food and gastronomy (F&G) are increasingly recognized as potentially determinant elements for the sustainable development of places. A commonly held theory in many research fields is that F&G can contribute to the economic, social and environmental sustainability of places while potentially representing elements that increase those places’ attractiveness and competitiveness. This literature review investigates three main research streams: agriculture and rural studies, place branding and place marketing and food tourism. The aim is to reduce the research fragmentation by offering a more holistic perspective on how F&G are understood in different research areas to identify common and transversal elements that might represent the core of F&G’s potential for place development. These areas have been analysed to identify common, recurrent and significative local F&G resources. Significance in this context indicates that the identified local F&G resources have emerged as meaningful at the local and global levels; that is, they are embedded in the place (spatially and culturally) and are able to identify and differentiate the place in global competition. The analysis reveals that all local F&G resources that support place distinctiveness and attractiveness should also address and strengthen the link between the place (territorial/geographical dimensions) and the people (cultural dimensions).
Keywords:
food; gastronomy; sustainable development; place development; literature review; sustainability; policy

1. Introduction

Food and gastronomy (F&G) are increasingly recognized as potentially determinant elements for the sustainable development of places. The theory that F&G might contribute to the economic, social and environmental sustainability of places while potentially representing factors that increase the attractiveness and the competitiveness of those places is widely held in many research fields.
Given these premises, this literature review draws from multiple disciplines and research streams to reveal how different areas understand F&G resources as elements that might support sustainable place development. The overall objective of this review article is to reduce research fragmentation by providing an understanding of the main elements underlying F&G as factors that may support place development and by identifying common dimensions that may support sustainability principles and sustainable development goals. Indeed, fragmentation is one of the major issues that a sustainable development approach must overcome. The disciplines underlying these concepts have often developed separately. Therefore, many of the sustainable development challenges being confronted by academics and policymakers are rooted in the sectorial fragmentation of responsibility [1]. To address this topic, this article offers a more holistic framework by selecting and analysing academic discourses relating F&G to sustainable place development, which is understood as economic growth at the local level with respect to natural, social, human and manufactured capital [2]. The identification of common and transversal elements that might represent the core of F&G’s potential for place development is within the scope of this study.
Thus, this study disentangles the complexity of the role of F&G by emphasizing favourable elements that academia identifies as contributing to the sustainable development of places, providing relevance for policymakers.
The investigated research areas were agriculture and rural studies, place branding and place marketing and food tourism. These areas have been analysed to identify common, recurrent and significative local F&G resources. Significance in this context indicates that the identified local F&G resources emerged as meaningful at both the local and global levels, that is, they are not only embedded in the place (spatially and culturally) but are also able to identify and differentiate the place in global competition. When these three areas were analysed through the lens of sustainable local development, they revealed some common features. In particular, to be sustainable, all local F&G resources that have the ability to support place distinctiveness and attractiveness should also address and strengthen the link between the place (territorial/geographical dimensions) and the people (cultural dimensions) [3]. Therefore, this article aims to identify recurrent local F&G resources, which are understood as a potential competitive advantage for sustainable growth; to understand how they interrelate; and to apply common dimensions that appear to give significance to these resources, namely, geographical embeddedness (place) and the meaning with which local culture imbues them (people).
The literature streams analysed adopt a common approach to sustainable development through governance. Accordingly, multi-stakeholder networks that include local actors and communities are considered essential tools for approaching sustainability challenges. An improved categorization of knowledge may be both relevant to future research attempts in the field and useful for policymakers and F&G stakeholders in gaining an understanding of the aspects that might contribute to sustainable place development through F&G. The article concludes by identifying potential benefits that F&G might bring to local sustainable development when approached from a holistic perspective.
The article is organized as follows: (1) primary issues related to sustainable development and a methodological note; (2) areas of academic research addressing F&G for sustainable place development; (3) policymakers’ perspectives on F&G’s potential for sustainable place development; (4) findings regarding the main elements that recur throughout the analysed streams, framed according to place and people dimensions; (5) discussion and conclusions; and (6) policy implications.

2. Addressing Sustainable Development

“Sustainability is the capacity to create, test and maintain adaptive capability. Development is the process of creating, testing, and maintaining opportunity. The phrase that combines the two, “sustainable development”, therefore refers to the goal of fostering adaptive capabilities while simultaneously creating opportunities. It is therefore not an oxymoron but a term that describes a logical partnership” [4].
Sustainable development has been a frequently debated concept since the 1987 publication of the Brundtland Report titled “Our Common Future” [1]. Since then, one of the most accepted perspectives on sustainable development maintains that it is based on three pillars (or the triple bottom line), consisting of economic, environmental and societal challenges and disciplines. However, as noted by Ciegis, Ramanauskiene and Martinkus [5], these disciplines (economics, sociology, and ecology) define sustainable development differently, making it difficult to integrate their findings [6] and determine whether they shared the same goals [7]. Additionally, drawing from Camagni’s [8] definition of sustainable urban development, this study interprets sustainable place development as the following:
“a process of synergetic integration and co-evolution among the great subsystems making up a city (economic, social, physical and environmental), which guarantees the local population a non-decreasing level of wellbeing in the long term, without compromising the possibilities of development of surrounding areas and contributing by this towards reducing the harmful effects of development on the biosphere”.
The focus here is wider in that it considers not only urban environments but also (and in a prevalent manner) rural areas as the places where food is generally produced. Based on these considerations, this review will concentrate on how sustainable place development is interpreted in different literature streams to grasp how local F&G resources are understood by different research streams as significative elements that contribute to sustainable place development. This approach is expected to contribute to overcoming the problem of conceptually integrating the three pillars to obtain a more holistic understanding of how various issues are interconnected. This approach appears necessary to improve our “social ecology” [9], by conceptualizing in a systemic, contextual and holistic manner able to address sustainability issues [10].
Therefore, this study investigates how F&G addresses sustainability goals in place development, such as reducing poverty, supporting sustainable cities and communities, supporting climate action and avoiding biodiversity loss, and supporting multi-stakeholder governance, in accordance with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/?menu=1300). This study may contribute towards generating scientific knowledge to help us understand and potentially engage with real-world sustainability challenges [11].
Moreover, addressing sustainable places is becoming a priority of the broader movement towards sustainability science, which recognizes that effective adaptation to environmental and resource vulnerabilities will increasingly need to be “place-based”. As suggested by Marsden [12] (p. 215), a need exists “to re-establish a combined relational and bounded notion of place that centrally incorporates three spheres: ecology, economy and community” because places are the expression of how these interconnected and interrelated spheres interact.

3. A Note on Methods

Following Webster and Watson [13], this literature review aims to be concept-centric; therefore, concepts will determine the organizational framework of the review. The various concepts identified in the analysis will be grouped, synthesized and presented to obtain an improved understanding of their relationship and to contribute to future research.
The author has reviewed the most representative studies that not only address F&G and sustainable development but that also consider the “place” dimension (rural areas, cities, regions, and destinations). To ensure that the main issues related to each research area were included, this study draws from systematic literature reviews in each field (e.g., Bazzani and Canavari [14], on alternative food networks and short food supply chains; Vuignier [15], on place marketing and place branding; Berg and Sevón [16], on food in place branding; and Henderson [17], for a review on food tourism). Based on these systematic literature reviews, the main elements that define each research stream have been identified, and relevant articles examining such topics have been retrieved from the reference lists. Following this course, major online databases such as Google Scholar, Business Source Premier, Scopus, and JSTOR were searched. Included in the review are articles and books that address F&G in the context of place development as elements that foster sustainable growth by maintaining and leveraging the natural, cultural and human capital available in a place.
Therefore, streams of literature such as sustainable/organic agriculture production systems, food security, food democracy and food citizenship, food safety, and health and diet have not been included unless they have been used as the basis for place differentiation/attraction/promotion. The main research areas investigated are agriculture/rural studies, place branding/marketing, and food tourism.
This review focuses on recent literature and current issues [18] related to this wide multidisciplinary field in an attempt to identify main concepts, trends and patterns that foster a more holistic view of recurrent and determinant F&G elements that might support sustainable place development (leverage). Current issues have been chosen because it is essential to understand how local economies develop sustainably in today’s globalized world. Thus, sustainable place development is operationalized by understanding how local physical and social resources not only are maintained but also can represent determinant growth assets in global competition (leverage).
This study was not intended to be a thorough review. Rather, its goal is to offer a more holistic view of how local F&G resources are understood in the academic literature in relation to sustainable place development. An analysis of this multidisciplinary field has been performed to reduce the complexity and fragmentation of various contributions and to identify a common transversal basis on which to build a fruitful discussion among various audiences (academicians, practitioners and policymakers). This review article was generated by the need to offer a theoretical contribution that is both relevant to academia and useful to practitioners and policymakers in the field addressing real-world problems [19].
Therefore, an analytical approach [20,21] has been followed to present, analyse and synthesize materials from various sources. A select but representative body of literature for each stream has been targeted to focus on different concepts and their relationships. Following the approach of Saraniemi and Kylänen [22], the discussion is therefore more subjective, because it aims both to summarize various perspectives on how F&G might contribute to the sustainable development of places and to support an understanding of future research directions.

4. Academic Perspectives

Various perspectives consider F&G as elements that favour the sustainable development of places.
The research areas analysed may be categorized as follows: agriculture/rural studies, place branding/marketing, destination branding/marketing (food events/festivals), food tourism, and sustainability science.

4.1. Agriculture and Rural Studies (Agri-Food Systems, Supply Chains and Rural Development)

Discourses on agri-food systems, rural development and their role in sustainable place development have attracted substantial attention recently.

4.1.1. The Rural Development Paradigm

The industrialization and globalization of agri-food supply chains have gradually increased the distance between producers and suppliers and, alternatively, that between consumers and customers [23]. This disconnection is reflected in the relations between producers and consumers, which are characterized by anonymity [24]. In this context, Wiskerke [23] (p. 374) identifies two main paradigms: (1) the agri-industrial paradigm (hypermodern food geography), which is characterized by industrialization, globalization, the placelessness of the agri-food production chain, and the “standardization of food production and processing”; and (2) the integrated and territorial agri-food paradigm (the alternative food geography), in which the food-producing region provides products with specific features and distinctive qualities and where food production is often integrated into other rural entrepreneurial activities. According to this paradigm, attention focuses on food quality, shorter geographical distances between producers and consumers through localized/regionalized food networks, local biodiversity and sociocultural traditions as elements that ensure quality and increase consumers’ trust.
This second approach, which is in accord with the objectives of sustainable development, might also be defined as a new “rural development paradigm” [25]: a multi-level, multi-actor and multifaceted process evidencing the global interrelation of agriculture and society in which a new developmental model for the agricultural sector emerges based on synergy. In this context, rural development experiences may create connections between local and regional ecosystems of goods and services, alternative supply chains and the diversification of agricultural activities, particularly at the level of the countryside and its actors, resulting in a reconfiguration of “the way rural resources are used within the farm and between agriculture and other rural activities” [26] (p. 513).
This latter paradigm focuses on local resources, particularly local food, geographical indication (GI) food products, and local actors organized in new, alternative or short food supply chains, representing a key dimension in the new rural development pattern [27].

4.1.2. Local Food and GI Products

One topic concerns the ambiguity surrounding the concept of “local” food because local may be understood both in terms of a bounded region in which products are produced and sold and/or in terms of “specialty” foods that might be valuable for export to other countries [28]. Some producers define food as local even when some ingredients are imported; they consider it local because it is manufactured locally and its production employs local people; others consider local products to be those that contain only local ingredients.
Martinez et al. [29] (p. 3) define local food as “food produced, processed and distributed within a geographical boundary that consumers associate with their own community”. Brunori [30] identifies five categories and related meanings that might be attributed to local food: functional (health and taste); ecological (food miles, biodiversity and landscape); aesthetic (diversity versus standardization, distinction); ethical (authenticity, identity and solidarity), and political (to change the balance of power in the food chain, to orient production and consumption patterns).
Martinez et al. [29] (p. 3) define local food as “food produced, processed and distributed within a geographical boundary that consumers associate with their own community”. Brunori [30] identifies five categories and related meanings that might be attributed to local food: functional (health and taste); ecological (food miles, biodiversity and landscape); aesthetic (diversity versus standardization, distinction); ethical (authenticity, identity and solidarity), and political (to change the balance of power in the food chain, to orient production and consumption patterns).
Origin-linked products associated with GIs typically represent a specific category of local food; they are inseparably linked to the place in which they are produced and bear unique quality attributes related to their GI, which facilitates their identification. Typical products are then defined by their geographical origin, their history and their culture. As stated by D’Amico [31] (p. 794), “The historical dimension concerns cognitive content, which is knowledge and know-how consolidated over time”. This dimension entails customs related to how typical products are produced, processed and consumed, making them part of both a local heritage and a place’s history. The cultural dimension involves the manner in which typical products express the mentality and life of the people living in a certain area. Clearly, geographical, historical and cultural dimensions are strictly interrelated. Eriksen [32] (p. 52) interprets different perceptions related to local food in terms of proximity: geographical proximity, referring to the specific territorial/geographical distance “within which food is produced (originates), retailed, consumed and/or distributed”; relational proximity, in terms of relations between actors; and value proximity, in terms of values that diverse actors attribute to local food.
Typical products link food to place through “terroir”, which is defined as “an area or terrain, usually rather small, whose soil and microclimate impart distinctive qualities to food products” [33] (p. 131). GIs provide the most forthright examples of this link between food, place, quality and tradition, including the following (https://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/quality_en):
  • Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) identifies products that are produced, processed and prepared in a specific geographical area using the expertise of local producers and ingredients from the region concerned. Characteristics of these products are linked to their geographical origin.
  • Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) identifies products whose quality or reputation is linked to the place or region in which they are produced, processed or prepared even if the ingredients used do not necessarily come from that geographical area.
  • Traditional Specialty Guaranteed (TSG) identifies products of a traditional character, either in the composition or means of production, without having a link to a specific geographical area.
Qualification labels act as information signals that producers might adopt to encourage favourable consumer responses by facilitating consumer choice among different products of the same category [34]. Tregear [35] underlines that typical products might be understood at the intersection of the production and consumption dimensions: the former relating to physical elements, such as ingredients and production processes, the latter relating to symbolic aspects, such as branding or identity.
Regional products represent both a form of cultural capital and potentially useful resources for rural development because they have the capacity to leverage social and economic benefits for local rural areas [34]. From this perspective, local food embedded in alternative agri-food networks may represent a niche for rural entrepreneurs who are willing to establish a closer relationship with customers [36], who usually interpret local food as food that is produced in a socially and environmentally sustainable way [37], which contributes to the re-establishment of trust between producers and consumers [38].

4.1.3. Short Food Supply Chains and Alternative Food Networks

Short food supply chains (SFSCs) are increasingly important to sustainable development through F&G. SFSCs are also often defined as either alternative food networks (AFNs) or new food supply chains (NFSCs) and are considered important elements in creating links between agriculture, society, producers and consumers [27]. As aforementioned, the term “short” not only relates to the distance travelled by food [39], but also to small producers engaged in shortening distances between them and their final consumers through personal relationships [39,40,41,42], a connection that might also represent a powerful aspect of an integrated tourism experience [28].
Moreover, SFSCs are characterized by specific quality definitions and conventions, spatial dimensions, and relational dimensions. This occurs because “food markets are becoming more differentiated on the basis of a range of socially constructed food quality criteria” [43] (p. 107), resulting in newly emerging quality food markets parallel to mass food markets. As Brunori [30] recognized, the food sector has recently helped give rise to a quality turnaround in the concepts of trust, embeddedness and place [44]. Quality characteristics of local food products therefore need to be properly communicated to consumers to encourage them to pay premium prices [27].
Bazzani and Canavari’s [14] literature review on AFN identifies their two main characteristics: embeddedness and food localization.
SFSCs and local food systems (LFSs) involve a respatialization of food systems in contrast to the conventional, industrial and globalized food system. This respatialization implies a connection between “place”, “community” and “local” [45]. Renting et al. [27] added to the respatialization of SFSCs and the resocialization capacity of food by allowing these concepts to draw upon the image of place/region as a source of quality. The concept of embeddedness is indeed related to the geographical dimension and to the social context of the territory [14,36].
As Born and Purcell [46] indicate, avoidance of what they term “the local trap” is necessary, i.e., the simplistic assumption that local scales are good and global scales are bad. As the authors argue, “scale” is socially constructed; therefore, it should not be considered an ontological entity but rather a strategy to achieve a particular goal [47]. However, from a place development perspective, local food as well as SFSC or AFN are relevant because they represent resources that are able to differentiate the place in global competition and increase place visibility; in addition, they represent an attraction for tourists interested in F&G.
The concept that foods in SFSCs might contribute to rural development and cultural sustainability is supported by the effort to reconnect with consumers via personalization of the selling channel. This effort supports a cultural relocalization of food in accord with current demand for environmental friendliness and sustainability [37]. Sims [28] shared this view by emphasizing how local foods sold through alternative outlets might represent approaches to boost the sustainability of traditional farming, the landscape and farming communities. Supporting local producers enables a virtuous circle for both community and territory by improving producer remuneration [38], adding value to sales [28], building a relationship with the local community and supporting the preservation of local landscapes.
Moreover, this type of support protects existing jobs and creates employment [39] by stimulating agrarian economies and favouring local farming communities and small-scale businesses. Ultimately, these changes are a tool for rural development [17]. In this context, valorisation of place through food is tied to the local community, territory and economy [45].

4.2. Place/Destination Marketing and Place/Destination Branding

Place marketing refers to the “application of marketing instruments to geographical locations” [15] (p. 9). Place branding represents a set of theories, managerial practices and efforts made by governments (either at the country, region, or city level) and industry groups [48] aimed at enhancing the visibility and reputational capital of places [49]. Place branding strategies are used to differentiate places in global competition and attract various targeted groups: visitors/tourists, residents and workers, and business and industry [50]. When considering the visitors/tourist target group, destination branding, which represents the most developed stream of literature linking branding to F&G, warrants discussion.
A place brand is generally defined as:
“a network of associations in the consumers’ mind based on the visual, verbal, and behavioural expression of a place, which is embodied through the aims, communication, values, behaviour and the general culture of the place’s stakeholders and the overall place design”.
[51] (p. 7)
In recent decades, F&G have been widely used as an attraction by various places and destinations; indeed, food characteristics may easily be linked to certain places or regions, and they are easily perceived as a form of brand identity [52].
The following sections outline how F&G are addressed within the place branding and place marketing disciplines as elements that contribute to sustainable place development.

4.2.1. Local Resources and Actors for Place Branding Based on F&G

Place branding is relevant to sustainable development in F&G because globalization entails a process of glocalization [53]. In this process, local resources—both geographical and cultural—available in the place may represent a “unique perceived value” to consumers and tourists essential to differentiating the place and transforming locally available resources into a form of competitive advantage [54].
Richards [55] underlines how F&G may be an essential element in the branding and marketing of places because F&G involve and connect many aspects of the destination experience. The destination’s overall food culture might provide a foundation for branding and marketing because food culture involves many different branding elements, including products (food and beverages), practices (eating and meals), the art and customs of preparing and eating (gastronomy), sensory elements (taste, smell, touch, visual), origins (organic food, ethical cuisine, locally produced food, etc.), preparation (ways of cooking), serving (fast food, slow food, street food, etc.) and the context in which food is served and consumed (restaurants, bars, markets, food quarters, streets, etc.).
Berg and Sevón’s [16] (p. 6) study of food branding found that cities have three main motivating categories for becoming associated with F&G: supporting the food industry; protecting and amplifying their identity; and changing the places.
The first category is particularly important for food and wine countries and regions that have important food industries and clusters and in which place of origin is a distinctive feature. The European Union’s (EU) quality schemes for food and beverage products (i.e., PDO, PGI, TSG) serve this purpose and contribute to strengthening the position of places through these protected markers of origin. Food is particularly relevant in branding attempts because the quality of food products may contribute to extending positive associations with the place, becoming an essential component of the overall place brand image. Country-of-Origin (COO) and Product-Country-Image (PCI) refer to “the image of the country (or place) with which a product is associated by sellers and/or buyers” [56] (p. 37). This image may have significant effects on both the market’s view of the product and consumers’ willingness to consider purchasing it. These two concepts have a strict relationship: both are concerned with how place images may be used to market the places and products associated with them. A product’s COO acts as a signal of product quality, whereas branding enables consumers to distinguish between offerings, influencing the perceived quality of products or services [57]. Foods with specific geographical origins may convey regional images to support rural tourism development through branding. This association would not only benefit promotional and marketing efforts but also preserve local food culture and traditions, given that food is a cultural object consumed for its symbolic and aesthetic value [58].
Another reason for using F&G in place branding is not only to protect and amplify the identity and sense of belonging of an area in which regional/distinctive cuisines are used to amplify the identity of regions or countries (e.g., French, Italian, Spanish and other cuisines) but also to protect and safeguard culinary heritage [59]. Moreover, using local culture and produce may contribute to developing a “sense of place”, making the destination more distinctive and attractive because local food and drinks allow places to capitalize on their assets to both benefit the local economy [60] and contribute to unique visitation experiences [41]. A unique sense of place is fostered by a clearly defined gastronomic identity and heritage, serving the differentiation and the rejuvenation processes alike [17].
The last argument in favour of using F&G in place branding is to change the place by creating dense culinary spaces and redesigning spaces for food markets, food festivals, etc., essentially contributing to the spatial transformation of places and their atmospheres [16].
Accordingly, food branding may differentiate places and make them more competitive because food may also represent an attraction for tourists and the creative classes [61] and food-related businesses. A creative food economy might support sustainable place development by forging synergistic relationships between agriculture (primary sector) and the experience economy (tertiary sector), both of which are linked with and contribute to a vibrant creative economy (cultural sector) [62]. In this relationship, a place-based place branding strategy might play a pivotal role [63]. Thus, place branding may represent a crucial strategy for national and regional governments [64] both to coordinate and align messages directed at major target groups and to increase competitive place identity [65].
A branding strategy based on F&G is considered sustainable if it is built on locally available resources (such as agricultural and livestock production) and traditional expertise (such as heritage cooking) that is based on local identity and contributes to its reinforcement [59].
Another consideration that is particularly relevant to places with an established F&G culture is that food is gradually replacing geographical location as a brand destination. Therefore, place is increasingly seen as a vehicle for experiencing authentic food in meaningful ways [66].

4.2.2. Celebrating the Local: Food Events and Festivals

Food festivals and food events play an important role in place branding based on F&G [67]. They also serve as an attraction for food tourism development. Food-themed activities such as farmers’ markets and food festivals have been recognized as increasingly important for affirming community identity and values whilst creating relevant tools for regional development [40]. Moreover, alongside food supply chains and AFN, food festivals and food events represent another avenue to establish closer relationships between producers and consumers [37].
According to Mason and Paggiaro [68], people visiting food festivals seek authentic experiences and connection with the local culture. As stated by Bell and Valentine [69] (p. 149), “as regions seek to market themselves, while simultaneously protecting themselves from the homogenizing forces of globalization, regional identity becomes enshrined in bottles of wine and hunks of cheese”. Several authors identify links between local identity and festivals [70,71,72]. Festivals support the development of pride in a place and contribute to the development or reinforcement of community identity [67], the maintenance of community values [73] and the celebration of the community itself [71].
Food festivals and events contribute to regional development [74] and regional destination branding, benefitting producers and local businesses not only by attracting locals and visitors but also by increasing awareness of a particular area as a destination by showcasing its local food [75].

4.3. Food Tourism

Hall and Mitchell [76] (p. 308) defined food tourism as “visitation to primary and secondary food producers, food festivals, restaurants and specific locations for which food tasting and/or experiencing the attributes of a specialist food production region are the motivating factors for travel”. Food tourism is part of the cultural tourism market [77] within the experience economy framework and a major area of interest for regions, particularly rural ones [75]. In the experience economy, “while commodities are fungible, goods tangible and services intangible, experiences are memorable” [78] (p. 11).
According to Du Rand and Heath [79], governments, researchers and industry have explicitly recognized a strong relationship between food culture and tourism only since the mid-1990s, whereas the number of studies on marketing food to tourists has increased considerably since 2006 [63]. Food tourism has gradually been recognized as a potential competitive advantage and a core element in destination branding. These phenomena occur because the globalization process is viewed as dialectical, i.e., simultaneously “the universalization of the particular and the particularization of the universal” [53] (p. 25). Therefore, globalization may feature “the critical reconstruction and reinvention of local cultures in relation to other cultural entities” [80] (p. 175). According to this view, globalization does not necessarily produce only homogenization; it may also support an impetus for transforming the nature and meaning of the local. Montanari and Staniscia [81] emphasized that the excesses of globalization and negative consequences to human health generated by highly industrialized mass agriculture have contributed to the reterritorialization of food. Reconstructing and reinventing food cultures and identities is of paramount importance in gastronomic product development [80] and may support the achievement of competitive advantage [82] (p. 19), which “is created and sustained through a highly localized process”.
Food tourism supports sustainable place development in various ways. It is acknowledged as including in its discourse both ethical and sustainability values based on territory, landscape and the local dimension of culture and products [83].
Some of the main themes/discourses within food tourism research are discussed below.

4.3.1. Local Food and GI Products

Local food has gradually been transformed into a lifestyle commodity [84,85] that is increasingly marketed alongside local culture and tradition [58]. These factors have strong implications for destination marketing.
The first discussion concerns local food, which food tourists generally seek when visiting certain destinations. Local food products originate from a particular area, and it is their origin, based on their local identity or typicality, which differentiates them from other products [86]. Local food is considered in both of its dimensions: as a material product and as an intangible heritage [87].
As noted by Du Rand and Heath [79] (p. 209), “the roots of food tourism lie in agriculture, culture and tourism” in that agriculture provides the product (food), culture offers the historical setting and authenticity, and tourism should provide infrastructure and services to combine all three components into a food tourism experience.
Traditional meals have increasingly become powerful attractors imbued with symbolic value, considering that they express local culture and reflect regional identities and values [77,84]. At the core of differentiation is “a concept of identity based on a sense of place and representing the bundle of products and services that make up a tourist experience” [88] (p. 17). This concept may be referred to as “touristic terroir”. Montanari and Staniscia [81] stress that the landscape dimension is essential to understanding relationships between quality food and tourism because the quality of food stems greatly from the quality of its “terroir”. Indeed, food is considered both a reflection of the culture of a place and an expression of a society and its people [79].
Typical products may be considered a resource for the local community because typicity relates not only to the productive process but also to the connections between the different actors in the territorial systems who give the product a collective dimension [89]. Local agricultural production contributes to the reintroduction and maintenance of local identity and culture as well as to the reinforcement of community pride and the recovery of local identity and culture [81]. Using local food and drinks allows regions the opportunity “to incorporate cultural distinctiveness within economic development” [41] (p. 71).
The consumption of local food by tourists is considered sustainable because it supports the local economy [85] and reduces the area’s carbon footprint as a result of reduced transportation distances [83,87]. Tourism spending on locally produced goods may stimulate the local economy to maintain and/or reinvigorate the viability of local primary production and processing sectors [74,90]. Using local food as leverage for tourism appears to contribute to the objectives of sustainability. Food tourism is small-scale, supports agricultural diversification and may spread benefits throughout the area’s economic sector, increasing employment opportunities [91]. It also fosters community participation [90,92], generates a multiplier effect in the local economy [28,89], contributes to the authenticity of a destination and ultimately strengthens the local economy [74,79]. Local foods represent an important means of marketing a destination’s identity and culture whilst enabling food producers to add value to their products and establish a unique place in global competition.

4.3.2. Place, Food and People: Understanding Authenticity

Local food products involve a relationship between geography, history (tradition) and culture (expertise and gastronomy) [31]. These aspects relate to another essential dimension: authenticity.
Authenticity is recognized as connecting food and place. The “taste of place” [93] implies that geographic conditions contribute to foods’ characteristics and qualities. Notably, geographical origin is only one of the dimensions linking foods to place; the others are the specialized knowledge of the region’s food producers [94] and the use of food by the local community. Sidali and Hemmerling [95] propose an authenticity model for food specialties, analysing both subjective and object-based dimensions of authenticity. Subjective dimensions relate to different meanings that consumers attribute to “local food” (as discussed in Section 4.1.2 and Section 4.3.1), while object-related dimensions refer to “temporal, spatial and product-specific attributes of food specialties” [95] (p. 1696). The model shows that both object and subjective-based authenticity are essential to understanding consumers’ perceptions of food product authenticity, and both influence purchase intention. The role of object-based authenticity seems to be mediated by subjective authenticity. The latter appears to be affected by consumers’ self-identification with the product and consumer personality “underdog” traits, such as determination and passion; therefore, emphasising the “underdog” narrative, i.e., producers with humble origins (compared with larger or more resourceful peers) who achieved success because of their passion and determination, appears to be important to fostering consumer identification with product authenticity.
Another essential discourse involves local food as identity; indeed, “gastronomy has become a significant source of identity formation in post-modern societies” [96] (p. 3). Gastronomic tourism and food festivals may be used as tools to add value to local produce and enhance the local identity of both the destination and its local community [41]. According to Bessière [59], local identity represents one of the conditions necessary for local development to succeed and extend its influence.

Authenticity of Food and Food Experiences

The matter of authenticity in food and food experiences is interpreted from various perspectives.
The work of Hillel, Belhassen and Shani [97] is particularly relevant because it explores considerations related to Israel’s Negev region and its failure to become a food destination. According to these authors, one of the main aspects underlying successful food destinations relates to the perception of local food as authentic, with authenticity emanating from the direct and indirect negotiations between hosts and guests. This perception implies that if hosting communities wish to successfully market their living cultural identity, they should engage in producing it. The authenticity of food must therefore include both a geographical component and a cultural component that addresses the cultural values shared by the members of the local community. Therefore, to be successful, gastronomic destinations must address gastronomic tourists’ appetite for authenticity “by offering products and experiences that faithfully communicate an intimate link between food, place and community” [97] (p. 202). Accordingly, the Negev region appears to have failed at becoming a food destination because of the lack of an association among local food, local culinary practices and community. Local foods are produced for export and are not used by locals; they do not have a protected origin and are sold by associating them with foreign territories (e.g., Camembert-style cheese or Tuscan-style oil) instead of by building associations with the local territory. Additionally, local foods are not used by local chefs to present innovative culinary experiences. The issue of authenticity was also reported by Du Rand, Heath and Alberts [74], who observed that to enable destination branding and develop sustainable food tourism, local food must be linked to the area in which it is produced. Sims [28] emphasized the importance of heritage in relation to the authenticity of food experiences by stressing that tourists value local foods because they are not only seen as local (belonging to one place) but are also perceived as “traditional” products with a long history of production in a specific location. Heritage represents the link between past and present and “a reservoir of meaning necessary to understand the world: a resource to elaborate alterity and consequently identity” [59] (pp. 26–27). Food tourism is considered sustainable when it sustains activities, persons and institutions in harmony with a place’s other elements, such as natural resources, history, and sociocultural values [98].
If the origin of foods appears to be a fundamental aspect that enables the proper branding of products by linking them to their place/region, then local places of consumption are essential in conveying products to consumers/tourists [79]. In this respect, the restaurant sector is one of the most important elements [99,100] to link food, tourism and local development, and the use of local food in local restaurants might increase the perceived authenticity of the restaurant experience.

Local Food Experience: Attraction or Impediment?

Different authors [37,74] emphasize that food should not be changed to suit the taste of foreign visitors because doing so might result in the loss of traditional regional foods and have wider implications for the community’s sustainability.
Cohen and Avieli [101] adopted a critical sociological/anthropological perspective on the perception of local food as an attraction in tourism. They emphasized that experiencing unfamiliar local food may represent a challenge for tourists, highlighting how food may be perceived in two ways: as an attraction or as an impediment. This concern relates to dimensions of familiarity and strangeness regarding food. Fischler [102] defined these dimensions as neophilia (i.e., the search for new foods and the love of tasting novel dishes) and neophobia (i.e., the distrust of new foods and abhorrence of the unknown), both of which may be related to human attitudes towards food. Cohen and Avieli [101] (p. 772) reported that tourist-oriented locales often choose to “mitigate the taste of local food to suit the tourists, but leave enough of it that it metonymically impresses the tourists as the ‘real thing’”. The authors mainly refer to Western tourists experiencing developing countries’ cuisines, which have generally been introduced superficially in a manner that adapts the food’s taste to that of the host country.
Gyimóthy and Mykletun [84] (p. 261) discussed the phenomenon of “scary food”, which is defined through its “sensory otherness” (concerning sight, sound, smell, texture, and taste) compared to everyday fare as a sociocultural construction. Indeed, eating may be considered a symbolic act in which tasting local food implies ingesting another culture or geographical location and incorporating it into our own identity [69]. Scary, exotic food may elicit both negative emotions, such as fear or disgust, and positive ones, such as thrill and enjoyment. To highlight this dynamic, Gyimóthy and Mykletun [84] reported a case study on smalahove. Referring to a Voss sheep’s head meal that represents West Norwegian culinary heritage and has experienced a renaissance in recent years, smalahove is currently being marketed as a commercial product. Smalahove also contributes to Voss’s image as a tourism destination. This case emphasizes how local foods should be marketed according to both food and place characteristics. Instead of marketing smalahove together with landscape or environmental conditions, the Norwegian meal is marketed together with the theme of adventure, addressing different consumer/customer segments through a co-branding of extreme sports and extreme food.
Local people and lifestyles are an essential resource in cultural and heritage tourism products, and their success is usually dependent on their active engagement [103]. Indeed, communities may be empowered by the proper use of local foods as leverage for tourism through job creation, the encouragement of entrepreneurship and enhanced pride through branding of the destination’s identity based on local food and food experiences. Accordingly, to ensure the sustainability of the destination, food tourism should not be conceived only as an economic activity but also as a way to enhance culture. The focus should be on coherently promoting both tangible and intangible qualities of food products [37]. Therefore, the relationship between the economic and cultural aspects of food tourism is essential to sustainability.

4.3.3. Foodies

Whereas food consumption may generally have a positive (or negative) effect on tourists’ experience of a destination, because all tourists must eat, food can also be the main attraction for an emerging niche tourism market: foodies [104].
“A foodie is a person who is very, very, very interested in food. Foodies are the ones talking about food in any gathering—salivating over restaurants, recipes, radicchio. They do not think they are being trivial—Foodies consider food to be an art, on a level with painting or drama”.
[105] (p. 6)
Being a foodie encompasses several dimensions, including behaviour (shopping, cooking, eating and travelling for food experiences), self-identity (food and food tourism contribute to shaping people’s values, attitudes and identity), and social identity (being a foodie in social settings contributes to how people relate to each other and form/reinforce their identity, including sharing food experiences with other foodies) [106].
Foodies are an interesting tourism segment because they constitute both the highest-yield and the most demanding food tourists, as they are willing to spend more for customized experiences. However, they also contribute to spreading awareness that a destination is worth a visit, enhancing a destination’s reputation for attractiveness [106].

4.4. Governance

One of the hallmarks of the current approaches to sustainable development is governance.
The definition of governance adopted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/strengthening-education-systems/quality-framework/technical-notes/concept-of-governance/) emphasizes the need for broad-based participation and engagement in which multi-stakeholder networks, which include local actors and communities, are considered essential tools with which to engage sustainability challenges. These challenges are not bounded by disciplines but instead require the engagement of a different type of knowledge borne by different stakeholders [107]. This view is supported by other authors [108], who identified two main dimensions in the analytical framework of governance for sustainability: multi-actor governance and knowledge integration.
Current approaches to sustainability in relation to agri-food systems, supply chains and rural development, place branding and place marketing, and food tourism highlight the need for participation and stakeholder engagement.
A co-creation theme, implemented through multi-stakeholder networks, is gradually becoming a reference framework. This occurs because collaborating with different actors is essential to creating societal transformations that enable the materialization of sustainable development [109]. Every territory is different; therefore, each strategy for sustainable development needs to consider both place-specific characteristics and stakeholders because a one-size-fits-all model does not exist. To contribute to sustainability, place-based, multi-stakeholder partnerships able to solve real-world issues must be engaged [110].
Rural development is the policy field in which multi-stakeholder networks and community-based bottom-up approaches were first implemented, dating back to 1991 when the LEADER programme was born. Leader is a French acronym for “Liaison Entre Actions de Développement de l’Économie Rurale,” signifying “links between the rural economy and development actions”. LEADER represents an experimental approach to the EU’s rural development policy and has lasted for more than 20 years [111]. LEADER has offered a method for rural communities to involve local partners, with which they will jointly shape the future development of their areas. LEADER’s success in rural areas has led other EU programmes to apply this approach to other types of areas, creating what is now known as “Community-Led Local Development” (CLLD). CLLD is now also implemented in urban areas to support sustainable urban development [112]. Participation is therefore seen as an essential element in addressing sustainable development issues in both rural and urban areas.
In a similar fashion, an emerging approach in place branding is that of participatory branding, which highlights the significance of the branding process as a co-creation process through the dialogue between stakeholders (internal and external audiences) [113]. As proposed by Kalandides [114], the concept of co-creation is central to contemporary marketing, place marketing and place branding. Brand co-creation stresses how brands are actually co-created by multiple stakeholders and the people who encounter and appropriate them. From this perspective, a place brand might be conceptualized as a dialogue between multiple co-creators engaged in its co-construction. Accordingly, place branding interprets cities and destinations as “systems of stakeholder relationships rather than other definitions of place (such as geo-physical or administrative)” [115] (p. 98).
Waligo, Clarke and Hawkins [116] (p. 342) stressed how sustainable tourism should ensure the realization of effective stakeholder participation because the organizational structure of a destination may be perceived as “a network of interdependent and multiple stakeholders” upon which the quality of the tourism experience depends. A stakeholder approach to sustainable tourism entails the acknowledgement of stakeholders as a core component for the implementation of sustainable tourism, and engaged stakeholders involved in multi-stakeholder networks may facilitate the achievement of sustainable tourism objectives.
Essentially, governance issues are primarily related to the need to ensure partnerships between stakeholders. Stakeholders should establish co-operative actions both to promote local food as an attraction and to transform tourism opportunities into business activity [58,79].

5. Food and Gastronomy’s Role in Sustainable Place Development Policy

Following the analysis of academic contributions, reporting policymakers’ increasing interest in F&G and their potential for the sustainable development of places appears important. Notably relevant is how different agencies of the United Nations have interpreted F&G’s potential in the context of sustainable place development.

5.1. Food products with Geographical Indication (GI)

The Vandecandelaere et al. [3] guide to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) stresses the need to emphasize the link between people, places and products. According to those authors [3] (p. xix),
“an origin-linked product can become the pivotal point of a specific-quality virtuous circle within a territorial approach, meaning that its promotion as a GI product can have positive effects that are reinforced over time, thus allowing preservation of the agrifood system and related social networks, which in turn contributes to economic, sociocultural and environmental sustainability”.

5.2. Food Systems

Food systems are addressed by both the FAO and the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme). The FAO publication [117] addresses the concept of the “city-region food system”, discussing challenges to place-specific food systems in terms of causes, impacts and governance. The report emphasizes the interdependence of rural and urban areas and the need for an inclusive, integrated approach to better food systems and rural-urban linkages. The UNEP report “Food systems and natural resources” [118] emphasizes the need for a holistic approach to food systems and addresses these systems’ impact on sustainability and environmental issues.

5.3. Food as Cultural Heritage and Creative Sector

UNESCO emphasizes the cultural elements related to F&G. UNESCO’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (https://ich.unesco.org/en/lists) increasingly features food cultures (such as France’s gastronomic meals, Northern Croatia’s gingerbread craft and Mexico’s traditional cuisine in 2010; the Mediterranean Diet, Kimjang, making and sharing kimchi in the Republic of Korea and Japan’s traditional Washoku dietary culture in 2013; the tradition of making kimchi in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in 2015; and Belgium’s beer culture in 2016). The food-related cultures included in the intangible heritage list emphasize the cultural/social dimension of food; its relationship to the community and ritual practices; its cooking processes; its set of skills and knowledge; its practice and traditions related to production; the processing, preparation and consumption of food; the sharing of food; and the cultural identity and social dimension of food.
UNESCO has also included “gastronomy” as one of the fields of the Creative Cities Network, which was created in 2004 to promote cooperation with and among cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development (http://en.unesco.org/creative-cities/).

5.4. Food Tourism

In its “Global Report on Food Tourism” [119], the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) acknowledges the increasing importance of F&G as a central part of the tourism experience. It emphasizes the potential for converting gastronomic heritage into a tourism attraction and the need for food tourism to be underpinned by sustainability principles and practices and organized around public-private cooperation systems. The focus should be on the development of strategic tools to articulate the quality, diversity and uniqueness of local food products and gastronomic dishes. These strategic elements support both the image and the brand of a destination. Authenticity and experiences to be lived should be the basis of these offerings, which should reinforce values of cultural identity and sustainability.
These examples also show how policymakers understand F&G as multifaceted concepts. Their potential for supporting sustainable place development may be viewed from different perspectives, reflecting the same complexity that may be found in academic contributions. By merging policy and academic perspectives, this review identifies significative local resources across various domains, reducing the complexity of the field and offering policy implications.

6. Results

This study presents an analysis of various policymakers’ accounts and academic research areas to identify significative F&G local resources, transversal across research areas, representing potential competitive advantages for sustainable place development.
To address the research question, which asks which F&G elements represent distinctive features that may be used as leverage for the sustainable development of places, several conclusions may be drawn from the literature analysis.
The first element to emphasize, which is common to all research streams, concerns the idea that F&G represent distinctive elements per se because unique F&G stem from unique local natural and cultural conditions contained in the place. In global competition, it is local physical and cultural resources, local knowledge and expertise and local actors in the food system/culture that produce differentiation and may be leveraged to retain and attract businesses, tourists and residents. Accordingly, the valorization of local products and the branding of products and destinations represent effective tools in positioning local economies in a global world [54] and supporting place development in a sustainable way.
All of the research areas investigated demonstrate that spatial (geography) and cultural/relational (people) dimensions make local F&G resources meaningful at both the local level and the global level. Moreover, these two facets appear to warrant strengthening when marketing places to support sustainable place development. Accordingly, place and people are the key dimensions for making any F&G local resource significative by contributing to its distinctiveness, quality, and authenticity.
Table 1 shows how various tangible and intangible elements defining the food culture have both a place/geographical/territorial element and a cultural element stemming from the local people (producers, processers, restaurant owners, community, etc.) and their traditions. These elements have been selected from the analysis of the literature as the most recurrent, transversal and significative themes.
These elements all represent aspects of identity for the local stakeholders/community and the place/region to which they are linked. This relationship between local community identity and the culture of the place contributes to authenticity [79]. Authenticity emerges from the link between a geographical component (unique food stems from unique natural conditions of territory) and a cultural component, the latter involving the cultural values and expertise shared by the members of the local community [97].
Identity and authenticity appear to be transversal elements for all of the analysed streams; they are essential to making places recognizable in the global arena and to supporting sustainable territorial development.
The following summarizes the resources reported in Table 1:
  • Local agri-food products originate from a particular area, and their origin represents a source of differentiation resulting from their local identity or typicality. They are considered both material products and intangible heritage [87].
  • GI products represent a specific subset of local food in which the link between the product and the place (considered both in its geographical and its cultural dimension) is explicit and generally branded (e.g., PDO, PGI, and TSG). Typicity relates not only to the productive process but also to the actors that give it a collective dimension [89] and imbue it with cultural values shared by the community.
  • Local food systems (e.g., SFSC, AFN, and LFSs) contribute to linking agriculture, society, producers and consumers and shortening the physical and relational distances between producers and consumers/tourists [27].
  • Landscape (terroir) may be considered a synthesis between local biodiversity and sociocultural traditions [23].
  • Local gastronomy (culinary practices) is linked to the culture, tradition and identity of the place and its people [59].
  • Local food consumption places (restaurants, agritourism, wineries, bars, etc.) are locations at which the attributes of specialist food production may be tasted and experienced [76].
  • Food events/festivals affirm community identity and values while representing relevant tools for regional development [40].
However, in any of the place development strategies identified—rural development, place branding and/or a food tourism strategy—the link between place and people, which involves sustainable development, should be realized through multi-stakeholder network governance. Participation and stakeholder involvement and engagement represent essential tools through which any sustainable development strategy should be enacted because they ensure that territorial and stakeholder/community characteristics and needs support the shaping of development projects.

7. Discussion and Conclusions

This review was an analysis of various areas of study to identify the main academic discourses that relate F&G to sustainable place development. The aim was to offer a more holistic perspective on how F&G are understood as making a positive contribution to sustainable place development. Several elements were identified and reported in Table 1 because they represented the most recurrent and significative resources targeted by the literature. The identified local resources have two main dimensions—place and people—that are revealed as the underlying factors that support a sustainable approach to place development.
Places are increasingly important not only because they are the expression of how economy, ecology and community interact but also because place-based qualities provide food products with unique characteristics, foster biodiversity and ensure specific gastronomic traditions, increasing place recognizability in the global arena. Therefore, the concept of place is central to the path towards sustainable development, which contrasts with a globalization construct characterized by placelessness and standardization [123].
People are the local actors; they include farmers, producers and processers, chefs and food service industry, festival organizers and managers, policymakers and authorities involved in the food system and the community. These people instil local skills, historical and cultural practices, and traditional knowledge in producing, processing and transforming products [3], all of which contribute to the local (place) dimension and the “heritage” dimension. Heritage represents a source of identity [59] that supports place distinctiveness, typicality and authenticity.
The importance of linking food, place, and people is also supported by policymakers such as those of the FAO, who recognize these three dimensions as essential to ensuring sustainable place development [3]. This view is also supported by Pike’s [124] approach to geographical studies, which affirmed that the dichotomy between territorial or relational thinking when addressing space and place must be overcome to focus instead on their tensions. Pike [124] (p. 635) analysed the spatialities of branding objects and branding processes through the concept of geographical entanglement “evident in geographical origins, provenance and socio-spatial histories, spatial circuits of value and meaning, and territorial and relational spaces and places”. Thus, to understand the shift towards sustainability, consideration must be given to the ways in which change might occur in specific places, which may be understood as “social and contested objects, embedded in networks of relations” [125] (p. 208). Accordingly, this review demonstrates that, to enable the sustainable development of places based on F&G, the territorial (place) and relational (people) dimensions should be addressed together.
Dwyer [10] emphasized that one of the major shortcomings for the realization of sustainable development is that, whilst its principles are widely accepted, practices often remain unsustainable. This occurs because “business as usual” assumptions reflect the neoliberal economic model, whereas a different approach is required to contend with sustainable futures. Should locales seek development, attracting tourists and businesses might lead to increased pressures on the places themselves. From an economic perspective, attracting more people might signify an increased cost of living and prices for locals, particularly if they are not beneficiaries of economic development. From an environmental perspective, increased numbers of tourists might lead to the degradation of landscapes and negatively affect biodiversity, disrupting ecosystems and increasing the carbon footprint [126]. From a social perspective, if a local community is excluded from development actions, this might precipitate conflicts between residents and tourists. Sustainable development assumes that all stakeholders should benefit from place development strategies, not merely a few shareholders [127]; otherwise, commodification of culture might lead to loss of local identity and values [10].
Therefore, given the local food-related resources identified, the capability of these resources to allow sustainable place development largely lie within the realm of policymakers, along with the type of development strategies undertaken. Increasingly, the question of whom to attract to the destination is crucial. As Dwyer [10] (p. 13) emphasized: “Attracting the right type of tourist, with value aligned to those of the host, is more important than attracting large numbers” if development aims to be sustainable.
An additional challenge is that each of these resources is generally considered within a policy sector: local food is managed within agriculture for example, whilst the building of restaurants or food malls (food consumption locales) is managed by planning sectors, and festivals and events might be managed within tourism policy sectors. Therefore, often, even if a place has many of the identified resources available, they may not necessarily be addressed through a systemic perspective that might support an integrated place development strategy.
On the other hand, one of the hallmarks of sustainable development is the blurring of boundaries between research and policy areas and the acknowledged interdependence of different actors [116], together with the breaking down of modernist dichotomies such as production (economy)- consumption (culture) and global networks (macro)- local communities (micro) [22]. Consequently, it appears necessary to break down the silos among disciplines and policies. The path towards sustainability needs to be problem-based and place-based and must involve multiple actors bearing different types of knowledge that should be coordinated and integrated to address sustainability challenges [107].
The next step from a policy perspective is to foster an understanding of these resources as different elements that might support an integrated and self-reinforcing place development strategy that avoids treating each one of them as individual entities but rather as parts of a puzzle for development based on F&G.
Another element that warrants emphasis is that policymakers should plan a place development strategy based on F&G considering all the identified resources systemically; this strategy might support the emergence of cross-sectorial effects capable of promoting the development of new products, services and processes.
Finally, F&G’s benefits for local sustainable development should be emphasized; these benefits were suggested based on a holistic perspective as they emerged from the analysis:
  • Local food and GI products may support agricultural differentiation, maintain local resources (biodiversity and natural and cultural resources) and contribute to the preservation of local landscapes.
  • Local foods sold through alternative outlets may boost the sustainability of traditional farming, landscapes and farming communities [28].
  • Local food networks may contribute to protecting existing jobs and creating employment by stimulating agrarian economies and favouring local farming communities and small-scale businesses, ultimately representing a tool for rural development [17].
  • Adding value to local food products can improve producers’ remuneration. This can be realized through certification (PDO, PGI, and TSG), through place branding by strengthening the associations between food (geographical and heritage components) and place, and through food tourism, because local foods represent an important means of marketing a destination’s identity and culture.
  • The respatialization and resocialization of food and food systems is important for local development; moreover, the cultural relocalization of food is aligned with the current demand for environmental friendliness and sustainability [37].
  • Communities may be empowered by the proper use of local foods as leverage for tourism through job creation, the encouragement of entrepreneurship and enhanced pride [81] by branding the destination’s identity based on food and food experiences in the area.
  • Using local food as leverage for tourism can generate a multiplier effect in the local economy [28,89], contributing to a destination’s authenticity and ultimately strengthening the local economy [74,79].
The following are the identified policy implications related to using F&G for sustainable place development.

Policy Implications

  • Food is implicated in many policy arenas. Therefore, addressing food’s impact on sustainability and food’s potential for sustainable development will not be possible if challenges are addressed only within a single policy sector, such as agriculture. A systemic approach is needed along with coordination among policy sectors such as education, business, health and others.
  • Local stakeholders and local communities must be involved in each of the strategies identified (i.e., rural development, place branding, and food tourism). The engagement of local actors will allow them to assume ownership of projects/strategies and will contribute to the authenticity of food and food experiences.
  • A one-size-fits-all solution for sustainable territorial development does not exist; therefore, all relevant stakeholders must be engaged through a participatory approach that identifies both the local competitive advantage and potential for sustainable growth.
  • Food and food’s potential for development must be considered from a systemic perspective, which might enable the identification of cross-sectorial opportunities by linking food with other sectors (e.g., tourism, technology, education, etc.).
Based on this analysis, the identified tangible and intangible elements appear to have the ability to support sustainable territorial development if it is addressed in a manner that strengthens the place and people dimensions of F&G and is sustained by participatory approaches to governance.
This article contributes a focused perspective on a highly essential research area and offers a local resource-based interpretation of F&G potential for sustainable place development that might support improved policymakers’ understanding and perhaps coherent actions. This study also has some limitations.
This study was not a systematic literature review, and therefore, some important contributions were possibly omitted [22]. However, this article was not intended to be a thorough review but rather to offer an overview of the literature [20] with the aim of synthesizing different perspectives to provide improved direction for future research.
Future research should address F&G for place development in a more systemic way, i.e., by detecting and understanding how the F&G resources available in a place and related policies support or oppose each other in striving towards sustainable place growth. While the academic literature widely addresses how each resource identified might support sustainable place development, it is important to tackle the interrelations among different resources and policies to determine opportunities and challenges emerging from this potential integration towards sustainable place development.
Finally, future research should attempt to determine whether the relevant dimensions identified at the theoretical level are confirmed, challenged or extended through case studies.

Acknowledgments

This study was funded under the FOODEV project (Food and gastronomy as leverage for local development). This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 707763. The content of this article does not reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Responsibility for the information and views expressed in the article lies entirely with the author.

Conflicts of Interest

The author declares no conflict of interest.

Abbreviations

AFNsAlternative Food Networks
CLLDCommunity-Led Local Development
COOCountry-of-Origin
EUEuropean Union
FAOFood and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
F&GFood and Gastronomy
GIGeographical Indication
LEADERLiaison Entre Actions de Développement de l’Économie Rurale (links between the rural economy and development actions)
LFSsLocal Food Systems
NFSCsNew Food Supply Chains
PDOProtected Designation of Origin
PCIProduct-Country-Image
PGIProtected Geographical Indication
SFSCsShort Food Supply Chains
TSGTraditional Specialty Guaranteed
UNEPUnited Nations Environment Programme
UNESCOUnited Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
UNWTOWorld Tourism Organization

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Table 1. Local resources, framed according to place and people dimensions.
Table 1. Local resources, framed according to place and people dimensions.
Local ResourcesDimensions
PlacePeople
Local food and GI productsUnique food stems from the unique natural conditions of a territory. Local agri-food products originate from a particular area, and their origin represents a source of differentiation in the global arena.
GI products contribute to preserving biodiversity and local landscapes.
Local agri-food products also have a cultural component, which implicates cultural values shared by the members of the local community and their expertise [ 97].
GI/typical products can be considered a resource for the local community because typicalness relates not only to the productive process but also to the relations between the various actors in the territorial systems who give the product a collective dimension [89].
Landscape (terroir)Terroir is defined as “an area or terrain, usually rather small, whose soil and microclimate impart distinctive qualities to food products” [ 33] (p. 131). The quality of food stems greatly from the quality of its “terroir”, which contributes to increasing place attractiveness [81].Landscape is considered both a natural and a cultural asset and is represented by its sociocultural traditions [ 23].
Local food consumption placesThe context in which food is served and consumed represents a branding element; it attracts tourists because it contributes to authenticity.Local consumption places using local food showcase local culture and strengthen local food identity.
Local gastronomyLocal gastronomy conveys the culture, traditions and identity of the place.
Local gastronomy stems from the use of territorial products, which are valued through gastronomy because the place offers an opportunity to interpret local food according to local tradition and expertise, contributing specific flavours and ways of eating [ 120].
Gastronomy has the ability to convey a sense of heritage and a community’s cultural identity [ 121].
A heritage dimension is essential to the authenticity of food experiences; tourists value local foods because they are seen not only as local (belonging to one place) but also as “traditional” products with a long history of production in a specific location [28].
Local food systemsSFSCs contribute to the respatialization of food systems, which contrast with the conventional, industrial and globalized food system; SFSCs imply a connection between “place”, “community” and the “local” [ 45]. This respatialization also aligns with the concept of the foodshed, conceived as “a socio-geographic space: human activity embedded in the natural integument of a particular place” [122] (p. 37).SFSCs contribute to the resocialization of food systems (shorter relational distances). The relations between the various actors of the territorial systems give the product a collective dimension [ 89].
Food events and food festivalsFood events contribute to the preservation and celebration of the local agri-food system, which is a part of local identity.Food events are a celebration of a community’s local identity, values and pride.
Source: author’s elaboration.
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