Thesis title: The construction of the contemporary bulk market in France. Study of the relations between the initiatives of the supply actors, the market devices, and the consumers’ practices.
Supervisor: Alexandre Mallard
This dissertation focuses on the construction of contemporary bulk markets in France. The “contemporary” bulk buying and selling, breaking away from “traditional bulk”, is being thought of and carried out today through new technical and technological devices. In this respect, it could be understood as an “innovation by withdrawal” (Vink and Goulet, 2012), with the rhetoric of “better” (organic consumption, reduction of waste) and “without” (no packaging), even though it reintroduces the package in other forms (“packaged bulk”).
Within a context of changes in consumption patterns called to become sustainable, this return of bulk, for its promoters, seems to respond to both ecological and economic issues. Even though 60% of households use bulk food at least once a month, bulk food only represents 5% of the food market today (Réseau vrac, 2020). In order to tend towards its democratization, its promoters are trying to co-construct bulk markets by dealing with various challenges (a context of legal vacuum, the difficulty of doing without packaging, the lack of control over all the epistemic, technical, organizational, and legal parameters necessary for the bulk buying and selling). In this respect, one of the avenues for analyzing the construction of these markets consists in questioning what bulk does to the work of professionals (suppliers, distributors, producers), to consumer practices, to what is at stake around bulk distribution systems, and to all the issues related to legal regulations, product traceability, and the reorganization of distribution channels.
This dissertation is rooted in the tradition of Science and Technology Studies, and I am particularly interested in the approach to market arrangements developed by Callon (2013; 2017). I thus propose to follow these different actors in their attempts to construct these markets, the various human and non-human mediations through which this meeting between supply and demand is thought of (brands, sales devices, retail spaces, institutional actors, etc.), in order to grasp the different issues related to bulk buying and selling depending on the type of market (dry bulk, liquid bulk).
Keywords: Contemporary bulk, markets, distributors, market devices, consumer practices, packaging.