Deepening Cultural Knowledge: Semiotic Study on Finnish Chocolate Packages

Heidi Uppa, Tania Rodriguez-Kaarto

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference article in proceedingsScientific


    Food and eating are essential parts of our everyday lives. Food packages are cultural products reflecting practices and perspectives and therefore, convey culturally coded meanings. In this paper we analyse Finnish food culture through chocolate packaging examples. Food products and packages are so intertwined that products are difficult to recognise without packages. Chocolate packages are studied as cultural symbols, by which meanings are constructed through social interactions and repeated patterns. However, messages and meanings on packages might be ineffective in communicating basic information to non-Finnish speakers. We focus on communication of food packages and the role of visual elements in the process of translating cultural knowledge and meanings. Finnish culture is being defined based on literature review and cultural dimensions (Hofstede). Social semiotics (Kress & Van Leeuwen) and the concept of the semiosphere (Lotman) are been applied in the theoretical framing. Semiotic analysis has been applied as a research method to examine food packages and chocolate packages in particular. We chose chocolate packages from Finnish brands and analysed visual elements in them: text and typography, colours, imagery, layout and structure and the whole package as message. In addition, semi-structured interviews among design professionals were executed to ensure the depth and quality of the analyses. Also, food representations in Finnish language books for beginners were examined. Findings of this study show how the meanings of the packages are translated in the semiosphere. Visual communication strengthens cultural transformation by reinforcing understanding in multicultural environment. We identified a need to better visual translators to support non-Finnish speakers to understand and integrate into Finnish (food) culture. Future research will issue recommendations for the use and development of ‘meaning translators’ that boost cultural knowledge.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationBeyond the Superficial, Making Sense of Food in a Global World
    PublisherInter-Disciplinary Press
    ISBN (Print)978-1-84888-430-4
    Publication statusPublished - 2016
    MoE publication typeB3 Non-refereed conference publication
    EventFood 4: Constructing and Defining Food Practices The Food Project - Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom
    Duration: 15 Sept 201517 Sept 2015


    ConferenceFood 4: Constructing and Defining Food Practices The Food Project
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


    • Food packaging
    • culture
    • identity
    • semiotics
    • language
    • cultural knowledge
    • chocolate
    • visual communication
    • semiotic analysis
    • semiosphere


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