New Nordic Food – the burgeoning of a popular movement


The Nordic cuisine movement’s progress has attracted attention from all around the world. Three researchers have now analysed the movement as a social change process – how it developed from a professional debate about the Nordic kitchen’s definition to a global culinary phenomenon and a social and economic force in the Nordics.

New Nordic Food as an innovative change process

From label to practice: The process of creating Nordic cuisine was published in the Journal of Culinary Science and Technology. Its authors are Haldor Byrkjeflot from Oslo University and Jesper Strandgaard Pedersen and Silviya Svejenov from Danish CBS.

The article explores the culinary innovation process that made Nordic cooking a popular movement, carried by chefs, politicians, researchers, media and audience, which have all contributed to the concept’s collective identity. The process is divided into three stages, emergence, legitimation and expansion, which describe how the project started as a professional initiative and expanded to become a political priority and a social change mechanism.

Sympathetic values created the fundament

The movement’s starting point was Nordic Kitchen Symposium, where some of the region’s elite chefs, led by Claus Meyer and René Redzepi, met to identify the original Nordic food culture. Together, they created the New Nordic Kitchen Manifesto, which associates the region’s cuisine with purity, freshness, simplicity and ethics, all based on local and seasonal quality ingredients.

According to Einar Risvik, leader of New Nordic Food’s working group, the attractive values and their relevance in the public debate created a strong foundation for New Nordic Food’s onward journey.

“We endorse ideas and values that resonate our own beliefs,” says Risvik. “The values stated in the kitchen manifesto are recognisable and attractive to most people, which is why the movement received so much political and popular backing in such a short time.”

An open label with positive connotations

The researchers identify three mechanisms that were decisive for the movement’s expansion, the use of the label Nordic, the invitation to a flexible interpretation of the principles and targeted use of media.

The label Nordic did not have a previous value or definition in the culinary domain, but did indeed represent positive connotations in a number of areas, notably Nordic literature, design and welfare. Moreover, the concept instigated an intensive creative process, where everybody could contribute to the Nordic kitchen’s definition and practices.

“New Nordic Food is an idea with room for creativity, interpretation and entrepreneurship. The kitchen manifesto and the movement in its entirety focus on the values we believe in, without too many rules and limitations,” says Risvik.

A movement with a broad backing

Byrkjeflot, Pedersen and Svejenov highlight the movement’s broad backing as decisive for the fact that New Nordic Food gained status as a popular movement. They identify four groups in particular – the culinary experts that launched and concretised the concept, politicians and public officials that supported it, both ideologically and financially, researchers who provided legitimation of the Nordic gastronomy’s qualities, and the media, which generated publicity and enthusiasm around New Nordic Food.

From a political perspective, New Nordic Food represented an opportunity for increased cooperation between the Nordic countries and an enormous potential with regards to international branding.

“The Nordic Council of Ministers, the Nordic ministers for food and Nordic Innovation managed to provide political and economic support without it leading to increased control and limitations. This was essential for the creative chefs that launched the initiative, as they did not wish for standardisation and certification of the Nordic kitchen,” says Risvik.

Inspiration for social change

The article perceives New Nordic Food as a good example of innovation that promotes political intentions, in this case related to a healthier food culture. According to the three researchers, the principles of the process can serve as inspiration for other social change processes.

“It confirms our belief that our entrepreneurs should be granted freedom, while the activities still need to be anchored in knowledge, skilfulness and common values. The political leadership should support these values, without limiting creativity. In that manner, you can create the social involvement and momentum that has been essential for New Nordic Food’s success,” Risvik concludes.

More information:

Einar Risvik, leader of New Nordic Food II's working group, einar.risvik@If you can see this, please update your, +47 91 37 4880

New Nordic Food II is a communication programme under the Nordic Council of Ministers that promotes Nordic food in the region and internationally. NNF II runs in the period 2010-2014. NNF II focuses on improving meals in homes and institutions, strengthening children’s food culture and encouraging local food production and use of food when promoting the region.

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