Accepted Paper:

The rise of Bulgarian yogurt as a health food: creating values in food business  


Maria Yotova (Ritsumeikan University)

Paper short abstract:

Both in Bulgaria and in Japan, yogurt is accepted as a health food of special importance for people's daily diets. With its 30% share of the plain yogurt market, MEIJI is the biggest producer of yogurt in Japan. What lies behind this company's success and how has yogurt risen as a health food?

Paper long abstract:

The aim of this paper is to reveal how the Bulgarian traditional type of yogurt, through its transformation into the Japanese top brand "Meiji Bulgaria Yogurt", has created new meanings and values for consumers both in Bulgaria and in Japan. The case of Bulgarian yogurt comes to show how companies transform foodstuffs into culturally meaningful products as a result of which they do not just make profitable commodities of them. They "educate" the consumers and offer new lifestyles; they change established foodways and influence people's perceptions of their daily food.

It is not only companies, however, that participate actively in this process of value creation. Researchers and nutrition specialists, policy makers, journalists and NGO activists play an equally important role in the production and management of information about food in modern society.

In this paper, I explore the main factors that have contributed to the rise of Bulgarian yogurt as a health food. Drawing attention to the relationships and complex interactions between various actors and their participation in public discourses, I am trying to better understand the process through which a basic foodstuff such as yogurt turns into a branded commodity to which people attach special meanings and values.

Panel P084
Creativity in business (Commission on Enterprise Anthropology)