Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to exemplify, by means of a Belgian case study, the transition of multiple certification schemes currently employed in the food sector towards a single retail driven higher end spot market. Design/methodology/approach – Data were obtained by means of focus group sessions, a survey, in depth interviews and a literature review. The theoretical framework builds upon institutional economics, the competitive forces as identified by Porter, and the theory of system innovations. The article illustrates the current institutional setting of certification, the drive towards a premium spot market and the consequences for the participants in the schemes. Findings – This paper illustrates that a shift towards a premium spot market is indeed apparent. The paper furthermore argues that the dynamics of certification schemes are characterized by processes of contraction (mergers) followed by relaxation (diversification). The paper concludes that the retail sector is the primary beneficiary of the shift towards a single premium spot market. For the remainder of the food chain members, it is less clear whether the overall effect is positive. Originality/value – The question of multiple certification schemes merging into a single retail driven scheme is approached from different stakeholders' point of views. Furthermore, the different factors steering this transition are elucidated and empirically confirmed. Both elements make this paper a valuable contribution to the existing literature on certification and coordination mechanisms in the food chain.
British Food Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: Apr 18, 2008
Keywords: Retailing; Standards; Agriculture; Belgium
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