Retail influence on manufacturing innovation
The aim of this thesis was to locate examples of the active
involvement of major food retailers in innovation in food
manufacturing, and to explain their reasons for this
activity. Two characteristics of the food industry had an
important bearing on the research: (1) slow growth in the
demand for food and (2) the interaction between increasingly
concentrated food manufacturing and retailing industries.
The thesis seeks to improve existing theories of innovation,
which do not embrace the possibility that retailers may make
contributions to innovation in industries from which they
obtain their supplies.
Two principal investigation techniques were deployed. The
first comprised in-depth interviews with major food
retailers, which provided data on their purchasing policy
for own label products, and on their technological
activities. The second assessed the results of these
policies by identifying the responsibility for major
innovations in chickenmeat processing: a technological
history was compiled from data drawn from several sources
including industry experts and a literature search. Further
studies indicate that the findings from the chickenmeat
study are not a special case.
The thesis contributes to theories of innovation by showing
that food retailers with substantial in-house technological
capability have played important roles in influencing
technological change in food manufacturing. The need for
restraint on the purchasing power of large retailers is an
important policy issue. This thesis makes a contribution to
the debate. Retailers' procurement policies which have been
successful in stimulating innovation may also have wider
relevance to other sectors of industry.