Market Orientation. Transforming Food and Agribusiness around the Customer

Alessio Cavicchi (Department of Studies on Economic Development, University of Macerata, Macerata, Italy)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 2 August 2011




Cavicchi, A. (2011), "Market Orientation. Transforming Food and Agribusiness around the Customer", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 28 No. 5, pp. 388-389.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Market Orientation is a new book from the Gower series on Food and Agricultural Marketing, the third by Professor Lindgreen following The Crisis of Food Brands and The New Cultures of Food. This book is structured in four different parts collecting twenty articles written by 35 leading scholars in the field of marketing food products.

“A seminal book on the role of market orientation in driving business performance and customer satisfaction.” “A must read for agribusiness executives and academics.” “A thoughtful treatment of market orientation research,” “A must read for executives,” “This collection of empirical analyses will be valuable to managers.” If Kohli and Jaworski, Narver and Slater, the authors of two milestones publications in the Journal of Marketing about the subject of market orientation that in 1990 represented the beginning of a new era, make such reviews and comments about this book, what else can I add? As one of the contributing authors selected through a double‐blind process, I can underline what struck me about my colleagues' works when I received the book. In fact, it is exciting when you research and then write about a subject, to discover that the boundaries are broader than what you had in mind. This was my first impression when I saw a reasoned collection of theory and practice, definitions and literature reviews, qualitative and quantitative analysis from studies spread over the world (Europe, Asia, Australasia and South America) exploring the subject of market orientation in the agribusiness sector.

The first part, “Implementing market orientation”, consists of two chapters. Particularly noteworthy is the first chapter, where Van Raaij presents a remarkable review about the huge amount of literature that he classifies into four issues: definition, measurement, model, and implementation. The author argues that:

Many years of repeated explanations of what market orientation is and what is not have apparently failed to communicate a relatively simple message: Market‐oriented organizations are organizations that are well‐informed about the market and that have the ability to use that information advantage to create differential customer value (p. 20).

Notwithstanding the apparent easy task to link market orientation to the change process, van Raaij detects at least two challenges for researchers:
  1. 1.

    understanding the “what” and “how” of this change process, and in this sense, comparative studies of implementation success seem necessary; and

  2. 2.

    studying market orientation at the level of the supply chain instead of a single organization.

The second chapter, written by Beverland and Lindgreen, has a focus on the first challenge, analyzing two change programmes towards market orientation in New Zealand using the three‐stage change process model adopted by Lewin.

In the second (Marketing agricultural products) and third part (Market orientation in the downstream food chain), the main topic of the book is examined through empirical studies in the following sectors: feed industry in Germany (Chapter 3), raw wool in New Zealand (Chapter 4), meat in Scotland, Argentine and Australia (Chapters 5, 6 and 13), seafood in India (Chapter 9), olive oil in Greece (Chapter 15), organic yoghurt and muesli Chains in Finland (Chapter 10), and Wine in Italy (chapter 16).

Moreover, these two parts shed light on a wealth of strategic tools and organizational issues particularly relevant to be market‐oriented.

For instance, Chapter 11 explores in particular two tools to get the most from sensory analysis: the “House of quality” and the “Buyer utility map”. Chapter 12 gives some examples of value‐adding initiatives throughout the Indian value‐chain and provides a detailed case study of a cold storage firm attempting to break out of the commodity trap.

Then it is worth stressing the importance of two relevant issues for the modern supply chain: the role of cooperation and that of technology. The first issue is treated in Chapters 7 and 8. Chapter 7, written by Bijman, describes and explains the changes among agricultural cooperatives in north‐west Europe. After a restructuring process happened during the last 15‐20 years, cooperatives expressed the exigencies to become more market‐oriented. The author, after an analysis of data and case,s argues that:

[…] changing market conditions … led to restructuring process among agricultural cooperatives, such as internationalization, more vertical coordination in supply chains, greater investments in innovation and product development, new financial and ownership structures, new corporate governance structures, and, finally, the establishment of many new cooperatives (p. 134).

Instead, Beverland in Chapter 8 wonders if cooperatives can build and sustain brands looking at New‐Zealand cases. The author, using a qualitative research design, explores five case studies about venison, kiwifruit, wool fibre, FMCG and seafood and suggests that:

[…] traditional cooperatives may be able to develop innovative marketing programmes but still struggle to support them over the long term, due to problems in ownership structures. The new generation cooperatives attain more sustained long‐term success, because members can capture the equity of intangible assets, such as brand value, thus ensuring that they undertake actions consistent with building a sustainable, long‐term position (p. 138).

If a reader is interested in the application of an emerging technology to implement traceability on one side and customer relationships on the other side, Chapter 14 will satisfy the curiosity, shedding some light on the universe of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), a tool based on a wireless tracking technology that allows a reading device to exchange information with a tiny silicon computer chip operating via radio frequency. What is it? How does it work? How are RFID data used? The answers to these questions put in evidence at the same time the great potential in a market‐oriented perspective together with the privacy problems in retailers' environment. The authors suggest that “the constant trade‐off between privacy and the infinite possibilities of enhancing market orientation likely require specific guidelines from the industry” (p. 258).

The last part of this book is eminently dedicated to specialty products. Four chapters (17‐20) discuss market orientation especially in niche industry. The cases from Europe, together with market orientation in Italian wine industry (Chapter 20), are the following: Oliva Ascolana del Piceno (chapter 17), a particular variety of olive, whose stuffed version is a world‐famous example of the Italian culinary style, and Mastiha from Chios (Chapter 18), a special resin derived from a tree with beneficial properties for health. Both products have received the Protected Designation of Origin label from European Union: Whilst for the Oliva Ascolana a study has been conducted with local consumers about their perceptions according to the Theory of Consumption Values by Sheth, the Mastiha case reports the organization structure and strategies adopted in order to build a strong brand image.

Chapter 19 investigates the marketing chain of coconut‐leaf‐based gift baskets produced by local rural communities in Vietnam. This case is particularly interesting because it gives an example of how a group of people in a rural area of Vietnam is adopting a market orientation and is improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the market chain by adding value to coconut leaves, usually considered waste products, providing a better standard of living to the whole community.

To sum up, this book, rich in thoughtful observations and insights, is an up‐to‐date collection of cases, particularly useful both for teaching to postgraduate students and for practitioners who want to understand how the theory on market orientation can be applied on the ground.

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