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

Xavier Gellynck, Bianka Kühne, Robert D. Weaver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal on Food System Dynamics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Business and International Management
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Transportation
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)
  • Management Science and Operations Research


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