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Relationship Quality and Innovation Capacity of Chains: The Case of the Traditional Food Sector in the EU


  • Gellynck, Xavier
  • Kuhne, Bianka
  • Weaver, Robert D.


The purpose of the paper is to explore how the perceived relationship quality is related to the innovation capacity in chains of the traditional food sector. Based on suggestions from theory and previous studies, empirical evidence is drawn from a survey of 90 traditional food chains including 270 chain partners from three European countries in four traditional food product categories. Heterogeneity across these chains is first examined based on cluster analysis that identifies three distinct clusters interpreted as reflecting three levels of intensity in innovation capacity: high, medium, and low. Next, we define measures of the chain relationship quality through characteristics such as trust, conflict and reputation. Results suggest that various aspects of chain relationship quality and relationship directions are differently important for the innovation capacity levels in traditional food chains. In particular the perception of the relationship quality between the food manufacturer and its supplier (and vice versa) is explored to be important. The better this relationship is perceived by one chain partner, the higher is the innovation capacity of the whole chain. Thus, our results strengthen the emerging conclusion that firms benefit from participating in networks but depend on its partner’s choices and perceptions. In future research, it should be explored how different national and cultural environments facilitate or hamper the innovation capacity in traditional food chains. It is also suggested to extend the complexity of the investigated system and to apply our novel approach to other food sectors, than the traditional food sector, in order to improve its generalizability.

Suggested Citation

  • Gellynck, Xavier & Kuhne, Bianka & Weaver, Robert D., 2011. "Relationship Quality and Innovation Capacity of Chains: The Case of the Traditional Food Sector in the EU," International Journal on Food System Dynamics, International Center for Management, Communication, and Research, vol. 2(1).
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:ijofsd:121841

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hualiang Lu & Shuyi Feng & Jacques H. Trienekens & S.W.F. (Onno) Omta, 2008. "Performance in vegetable supply chains: the role of Guanxi networks and buyer-seller relationships," Agribusiness, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(2), pages 253-274.
    2. Barjolle, Dominique & Sylvander, Bertil, 1999. "Some factors of success for origin labelled products in agri-food supply chains in Europe : market, internal resources and institutions," 67th Seminar, October 28-30, 1999, LeMans, France 241033, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
    3. Robert D. Weaver, 2008. "Collaborative pull innovation: origins and adoption in the new economy," Agribusiness, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(3), pages 388-402.
    4. Arend, Richard J. & Wisner, Joel D., 2005. "Small business and supply chain management: is there a fit?," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 403-436, May.
    5. W. Bruce Traill & Matthew Meulenberg, 2001. "Innovation in the food industry," Agribusiness, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(1), pages 1-21.
    6. Varsakelis, Nikos C., 2006. "Education, political institutions and innovative activity: A cross-country empirical investigation," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(7), pages 1083-1090, September.
    7. Fischer, Christian & Hartmann, Monika & Reynolds, Nikolai & Leat, Philip M.K. & Revoredo-Giha, Cesar & Henchion, Maeve M. & Gracia, Azucena, 2008. "Agri-food chain relationships in Europe – empirical evidence and implications for sector competitiveness," 2008 International Congress, August 26-29, 2008, Ghent, Belgium 44265, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
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    Cited by:

    1. Zander, Katrin, 2012. "How to Defend Market Shares against Foreign Competitors: The Case of Organic Apples in Germany," 2012 International European Forum, February 13-17, 2012, Innsbruck-Igls, Austria 144948, International European Forum on Innovation and System Dynamics in Food Networks.
    2. Kuhne, Bianka & Gellynck, Xavier & Weaver, Robert D., 2010. "Network connections and innovation capacity in traditional agrifood chains," 116th Seminar, October 27-30, 2010, Parma, Italy 95050, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
    3. Dirksmeyer, Walter (Ed.) & Theuvsen, Ludwig (Ed.) & Kayser, Maike (Ed.), 2015. "Aktuelle Forschung in der Gartenbauökonomie: Tagungsband zum 1. Symposium für Ökonomie im Gartenbau am 27. November 2013 in der Paulinerkirche Göttingen," Thünen Reports 22, Johann Heinrich von Thünen Institute, Federal Research Institute for Rural Areas, Forestry and Fisheries.
    4. Vera Belaya & Jon Henrich Hanf, 2016. "The dark and the bright side of power: implications for the management of business-to-business relationships," Agricultural and Food Economics, Springer;Italian Society of Agricultural Economics (SIDEA), vol. 4(1), pages 1-17, December.
    5. Lamprinakis, Lampros, 2012. "Organizational Innovation and Institutional Change: The Case of Valio in Finland," International Journal on Food System Dynamics, International Center for Management, Communication, and Research, vol. 3(2).
    6. Zander, Katrin & Beske, Philip, 2014. "Happy Growers! Relationship Quality in the German Organic Apple Chain," International Food and Agribusiness Management Review, International Food and Agribusiness Management Association (IFAMA), vol. 17(3).
    7. Jozsef Toth & Aron Torok, 2011. "Innovation Profile of the Hungarian Food SMEs," MIC 2011: Managing Sustainability? Proceedings of the 12th International Conference, Portorož, 23–26 November 2011 [Selected Papers], University of Primorska, Faculty of Management Koper.


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