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Do upstream actors in the food chain know end-users’ quality perceptions? Findings from the Norwegian salmon farming industry

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Kjetil Aune

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kjetil.aune@nofima.no

Supply chain management p. 456–463. 2006

Sogn-Grundvåg, Geir

Purpose – To examine whether upstream firms in the food chain are knowledgeable about end-users or consumers and to identify factors that might influence their acquisition of such knowledge. Design/methodology/approach – A cross-disciplinary approach is used to gain theoretical insights into the research questions. Consumer knowledge and influencing factors are revealed through an empirical study of producer and exporter firms in the Norwegian salmon farming industry. The study focuses on managerial knowledge of how consumers perceive the importance of the colour and texture of flesh and the fat content of salmon. Findings – A relatively large proportion of the managers are not knowledgeable about consumers’ quality perceptions. Closeness to consumers in the form of sales to the respective markets, or downstream location in the food chain, do not appear to improve knowledge. A differentiation strategy is not associated with more accurate consumer knowledge. Research limitations/implications – The study focuses on knowledge of a limited aspect of consumers’ quality evaluation only and important chain actors such as retailers were not included in the study. Upstream firms pursuing a quality-based differentiation strategy must take into account the fact that not all consumers are willing to pay a price premium for high quality, and that those who do might use surrogate indicators to infer quality. Originality/value – The paper addresses the important but little researched area of distribution of end-user knowledge in the food chain. It investigates reasons why and when upstream actors will benefit from end-user knowledge.

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