Academic article

Commoditization in Food Retailing: Is Differentiation a Futile Strategy?

Sogn-Grundvåg, Geir; Young, James A.

Publication details

Journal: Journal of Food Products Marketing, p. 139–152, 2013

Publisher: Haworth Press

Issue: 19

International Standard Numbers:
Printed: 1045-4446
Electronic: 1540-4102

Open Access: none


This article addresses commoditization in food retailing whereby competition has a tendency to lead to a continuous addition of new but similar products in a category. This often results in products that are more homogeneous and may make it more difficult for firms to gain unique market positions. In light of this development, we ask whether product differentiation is a futile strategy in food products marketing. We also address how consumers perceive and react to the seemingly ever-increasing number of similar products. These questions are explored through insights from relevant literature and a small-scale study of a seemingly highly differentiated category—smoked salmon—sold at the flagship store of an upmarket UK supermarket chain. It was concluded that no product attributes could be described as truly innovative, unique, or difficult to imitate. Implications are highlighted and discussed.