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Corporate philanthropy and channel impact in food security: The case “Nourish” by Campbell’s Canada

Sylvain Charlebois (College of Management and Economics, University of Guelph, Guelph, Canada)
Julia Christensen Hughes (College of Management and Economics, University of Guelph, Guelph, Canada)
Sebastian Hielm (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Government, Finland)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 2 February 2015




The purpose of this paper is to discuss how corporate philanthropy influences channel behaviour in the context of food security.


The authors chose an exploratory case-study design to guide the investigation, based on Yin’s (1994) argument that case studies are the preferred strategy when “how” or “why” questions are being posed, and when the focus is on a modern phenomenon within a real-life context. A survey study was focused on formal interviews onsite where product development and marketing occurred.


It is known that the concepts of power and dependency are central to channel relationships. In food distribution, it has been argued that food distributors hold more power than food processors due to end-user proximity (Ruyter et al., 1996). For corporate altruism acts to have an impact when generated by functions other than distribution and retailing, one can only argue that channel members would require a significant number of antecedents to be successful. In Campbell’s case, as shown in Table I, many became enabling to a successful outcome while others arguably made the project more challenging.

Research limitations/implications

With food security, the authors would need to consider other relationships within the marketing channel. The macro-environment of the marketing channel could also be incorporated in a future study. This study also does not compare other campaigns related to a similar product. In fact, it is believed that Nourish is unique in that it is the first ready-to-eat, ready-to-ship food product which was developed with the intent to serve the greater good.

Practical implications

Philanthropic acts by one company can influence other channel members when intent is driven by clear altruistic and politically strategic motives, and reflects individualistic and paternalistic attitudes. Campbell’s was paternalistic but attempted to serve many causes at once. Committing to only one cause in the future may help consolidate resources and corporate energy around one single cause.

Social implications

Corporate philanthropy describes the action when a corporation voluntarily donates a portion of its resources to a societal cause. Nourish’s case is different in that it is not just a linear transactional gift between a corporation and an organization actively involved in the cause. The project relies on the active participation of other channel members, including consumers, to support the campaign led by Campbell’s. It was a form of an extendable altruistic venture which allowed all channel members to contribute to the cause.


Food processors that want to address the issue of food security or any other societal causes, domestically or abroad, will not cease. The challenge for food processors lies in the functional nature of their role within marketing channels. Since they do not transact with consumers directly, they depend on distributors and retailers to relay their philanthropic convictions to consumers. Based on the Nourish case, this study set out a series of antecedents which would support similar initiatives.



The authors are grateful to Phil Donne and other members of Campbell’s Canada for their contributions to this research project. The authors also want to thank them for their constructive comments and inputs on the initial version of this paper.


Charlebois, S., Christensen Hughes, J. and Hielm, S. (2015), "Corporate philanthropy and channel impact in food security: The case “Nourish” by Campbell’s Canada", British Food Journal, Vol. 117 No. 2, pp. 861-879.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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