Factors for Success with Alternative Forms of Distribution

In Austria the three largest supermarket chains have a market share of over 80%. Therefore they exert a decisive influence on the market access of Austrian food companies and farmers. Companies and farmers who do not want to expose themselves to price competition and the increasing cost pressures that are associated with it are more and more switching to alternative routes to market (Short Supply Chains), such as solidarity-based agriculture, food co-ops, subscription-based home food delivery, fields for self-harvesting or vending machines.

>> In our research, we focus most notably on the question of how successful these initiatives are and what factors influence the success of alternative marketing channels.

Short Supply Chains

Short supply chains are supply chains that have at most one intermediary between agricultural production and consumption. Many of these innovative marketing channels are part of a circular economy philosophy. Traditional supply chains focus on price and the effects of scale, and thus they concentrate more on optimizing the transaction than optimizing the relationship between the actors in the supply chain. As a result, suppliers and producers become interchangeable and price is the only criterion for selecting a supplier.

In the case of value chains, for example, the focus is on the history of the product (e.g. old indigenous plant varieties and animal breeds), the identity of the producer, the provenance of the raw materials, regionality, the production method and its impact on the environment and social issues. These "valuation chains” between agricultural producers and consumers create new perspectives on food and the relationship between farmers and consumers.

>> In our research, we ask which strategies can help short value chains to gain a competitive advantage over classic supply chains.

Regional Consumption

For both Austrian and international consumers, regionality is a product characteristic that has generally gained renewed importance when it comes to purchasing food and products.

>> In our research we ask what are the motives that underlie this renaissance of regionality and what role sustainability plays here; how consumers are affected when information about regional origin is included on packaging, and what consequences misleading information about regional origin has on consumers.

Corporate Social Responsibility

By 2050, forecasts predict that global soybean production will double. Significant rainforest areas, especially in the Amazon, are expected to fall victim to this trend. In addition, slash-and-burn clearances in Indonesia to plant thousands of hectares of palm oil monocultures mean that Indonesia is among the top 5 nations in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. The majority of consumers in the western world are not aware that by buying their shower gels, skin creams, cookies or sweets they are consuming palm oil, thus endangering biodiversity and contributing to climate change. Companies are reacting to growing criticism through multi-stakeholder initiatives such as the Round Table on Responsible Soy or the Round Table on Responsible Palm Oil. Corporate Social Responsibility is a term that refers to measures taken by companies that want to improve the sustainability of their activities.

>> In our research we ask the question, what Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives exist around the world and how do companies and stakeholders implement and communicate them.