Collaboration and Commitment in a Regional Supermarket Supply Chain
This article presents findings from a longitudinal case study of efforts by a 100-store regional grocery store chain to localize its supply of fresh produce. The study was conducted to better understand the development of collaborative supply chains between farmers and grocery stores, and the broader potential that grocery store chains might play in localizing food systems. Data consists of three years of the chain's local produce purchases via direct-store-delivery from farms to stores; a survey of store managers and farmer-vendors; and interviews with farmers and grocery store and chain-level management. Analysis is structured by a conceptual framework that links collaboration to trust, which undergirds mutual commitment and mutual dependency between supply chain members, and which is dependent upon effective communication and positive prior market exchanges. The study finds that organizational structures constraining single-store autonomy in purchasing and pricing, coupled with supply variability from farms, limits trust-building and the establishment of mutual commitments and dependencies. These constraints, however, do not completely exclude direct-store-delivery as a strategy for food system localization and grower market diversification. Practitioners can support the building of collaborative supply chains through capacity-building and shepherding of early market exchanges between growers and stores, and supporting individual growers or groups of growers to become "preferred vendors" for regional grocery chains.
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