United We Stand, Divided We Fall

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Food technologies, international exchanges and mass-retailers have changed our relationship with eating. Food is abundant in developed countries, and food manufacturers persuasively encourage people to enjoy the full pleasure of consumption. We go to supermarkets because they allow us to buy whatever it is we want, transforming food into a

Food technologies, international exchanges and mass-retailers have changed our relationship with eating. Food is abundant in developed countries, and food manufacturers persuasively encourage people to enjoy the full pleasure of consumption. We go to supermarkets because they allow us to buy whatever it is we want, transforming food into a mere commodity.

 

 

If on one side, supermarkets are successful in regard to their product variety, logistical advantage and price competitiveness; then on the other side, the invisible supply chain and anonymous participants have brought a detachment from the origin and traditional meaning of what we eat. Before we were identifying specific fruits with a season, a time of the day, or a day of the week, whereas now we are mainly interested in easy purchasing and fast consumption. Times are changing: the expression “we are what we eat” and “food is a political act” is more resonant than ever before.

 

Whilst globalisation and commoditisation of food has consolidated through the modern supply chain, new demand for locally produced food has emerged, and farmers markets and independent retailers are being revived at an increasing rate.
In order to survive the market format, small producers have to be cost competitive or develop products perceived by customers to have higher value. Also, when trying to be commercially successful and keeping up with increasing market demand, some of them find it hard to scale up, whilst retaining their core principles. So what possibilities do these companies have to grow organically, in scale and scope?

 

A solution is to collaborate with other companies that share similar values and form a cluster together. A cluster partnership would allow these companies to increase their size and market reach/visibility without necessarily having to scale up themselves – a process which may dilute their original values. When scaling up, the cluster doesn’t push individuals to increase their production, but rather it grows horizontally through the acquisition of new companies. These are selected on the basis of their alignment to the principles and vision characterising that particular cluster. Seamlessly, the cluster’s identity is itself reinforced by the values reflected in each and all of the companies affiliated, and the overall resonance in the market is therefore amplified.

 

 

This business model could be very relevant and successful to the food industry where there is a high concentration of small companies with values at the centre of their operational system. Predominantly they are trying to target an ever-increasing number of environmentally conscious consumers. The clear presence of an authentic proposition, coupled with the inherent spatial convenience of the cluster, appeals to those with a strong emotional and ethical attachment to food. They are looking for sustainable alternatives to a mass-market offering, a future trend that cannot be ignored.