Sustainable foods, food supply chains, utopian edibles, Amazon, better health, exotic superfood

Document Type



This article argues that the marketing claims on food labels are a governance space worthy of critical examination. We use a case study of superfood açaí berry products to illustrate how marketing claims on food labels encapsulate dominant neoliberal constructions of global food systems. These marketing claims implicitly promise that by making careful choices consumers can resist and redress the ravages of unbridled global capitalism. Food labels suggest that consumers can use market signals to simultaneously govern our own selves and the market to ensure sustainable, fair, and healthy consumption. In response, this article develops, justifies and applies a socio-legal approach to researching food chain governance which uses the food label as its unit of analysis and traces from the micro level of what the everyday consumer is exposed to on a food label to the broader governance processes that the food label both symbolizes and effects. We demonstrate our approach through a “label and chain governance analysis” of açaí berry marketing claims to deconstruct both the regulatory governance of the chain behind the food choices available to the consumer evident from the label and the way in which labels seek to govern consumer choices. Our analysis unpacks the nutritionist, primitivist undertones to the health claims made on these products, the neo-colonial and racist dimensions in their claims regarding fair trade and rural socio-economic development, and, the use of green-washing claims about biodiversity conservation and ecological sustainability. Through our application of this approach to the case study of açaí berry product labels, we show how food labels can legitimize the market-based governance of globalized food chains and misleadingly suggest that capitalist production can be adequately restrained by self-regulation, market-based governance and reflexive consumer choices alone. We conclude by suggesting the need for both greater deconstruction of the governance assumptions behind food labels and to possibilities for collective, public interest oriented regulatory governance of both labelling and the food system.