International strategic alliances in the UK fresh produce industry
The focus of this thesis is an investigation of the key factors motivating fresh produce suppliers in the UK to form strategic alliances with producers from overseas; the process of alliance formation; and the success and development of these alliances. The UK fresh produce industry has a number of features that differentiate it from other sectors, notably its downstream channel structure, the inflexibility of supply and the lack of product differentiation. Despite these distinguishing features, there has been only a very limited amount of empirical research into strategic alliance formation in this sector. Strategic alliances have been studied from a number of theoretical perspectives. It is argued here that these provide only partial explanations for alliance formation in the fresh produce industry in particular and that a more complete understanding of firm behaviour is obtained by using a meta-theoretical approach. This is developed based on a synthesis of the resource-based view and the transaction cost perspective including social structural explanations. The scope of previous empirical research has also been limited by the weaknesses of methodologies employed, which have been overwhelmingly quantitative in nature. The research used here takes a qualitative approach based on the concepts and measures developed in previous empirical research. Frameworks are developed for both motivational and success factors. On the basis of these frameworks a number of propositions are explored and developed through the use of in-depth semi-structured interviews with 20 fresh produce firms in the UK. Our research provides support for the resource-based perspective as a basis for examining strategic alliance formation and success. It also highlights the importance of network theory in focusing on the opportunities to form an alliance. Trust emerges as a dominant factor in alliance formation and success.