Relationship Management in the Organic Food Supply Chain
Adeline Ries1 and Marja-Riitta Kottila2, (1)Helsinki University of Technology, Finland; (2)University of Helsinki, Finland
Despite the rapid increase in demand for organic products in many western countries, the quality-price ratio, availability and diversity of goods is poor, and their market share remains small.

The objective of the research is to understand and improve the supply chain of organic foods as an element of the wider food industry.

Elements from Efficient Consumer Response (ECR), demand-supply chain management and relationship management comprise the theoretical background. The main problems identified in earlier research at both European and Finnish levels are high operating costs, a lack of cooperation between actors in the chain, a lack of information flow and poor reliability of supply. These issues call for closer collaboration and better exchanges between the actors. Companies collaborate to compete as a supply chain a central element of this collaboration is information sharing and communication between the actors, both at transactional and relationship management level. This also fosters the learning process between actors and can yield a competitive advantage.

Interviews and surveys with the actors of the supply chain enable analysis of both the type of information they exchange (and/or need) and their relationship with other actors. The objective here is to identify factors affecting performance and opportunities for improvement.

The applicability of part of the results to other situations (other countries or product categories) remains to be studied. However, organic food is an example of an environmentally-friendly consumer product category and, as such, solutions found here to increase its relatively small market share can constitute instruments for the greening of consumption.

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