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Motives to SME internationalisation: A comparative study of export propensity among food and drink SMEs in Wales and Brittany

Robert Bowen (School of Management, Swansea University, Swansea, UK)

Cross Cultural & Strategic Management

ISSN: 2059-5794

Publication date: 12 August 2019



This study offers a comparative analysis of attitudes to small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) internationalisation in two different cultural settings, Wales and Brittany. The purpose of this paper is to conduct an in-depth investigation of attitudes to internationalisation among food and drink SMEs using mixed methods and focussing on both SMEs that internationalise and those that do not. This leads to a more comprehensive understanding of the issues influencing attitudes to SME internationalisation, which could facilitate policy development for such companies.


Mixed methods are used in this study to provide a richness of data in investigating this complex issue. The majority of research in this field has focussed on quantitative research, however, this study heeds calls for more plurality in research on SME internationalisation to achieve a more detailed understanding of the issues affecting SME internationalisation. This is achieved through an online questionnaire of 169 food producing SMEs in Wales and Brittany, informed by International Entrepreneurship theory. A second phase of semi-structured interviews provides more context to the questionnaire findings, with 37 interviews conducted with respondents from the questionnaire. Each phase was conducted independently, with findings triangulated for further investigation.


Companies of all characteristics have the ability to internationalise; however, cultural differences were observed between Wales and Brittany in both attitudes and the conditions for internationalisation. Breton SMEs displayed more proactivity to internationalisation, stemming from more favourable conditions, a greater reputation for food and more confidence. Conversely, Welsh SMEs were more reactive, relying on government support in encouraging internationalisation. Breton SMEs also benefitted from the strong cultural identity of food products, especially through the Produit en Bretagne brand and its network of producers.


The study makes both a theoretical and methodological contribution to research on SME internationalisation. The comparative study of Wales and Brittany is significant in understanding cultural influences to internationalisation in two regions where the food and drink industry represents an important part of the economy. The focus on a single industry is significant in understanding the particularities of internationalisation within an industrial context, as findings from studies across multiple industries are considered less generalisable. A methodological contribution is sought through using mixed methods to provide a more comprehensive study.



This paper forms part of a special section “Micro-foundations of small business internationalisation”.


Bowen, R. (2019), "Motives to SME internationalisation: A comparative study of export propensity among food and drink SMEs in Wales and Brittany", Cross Cultural & Strategic Management, Vol. 27 No. 1, pp. 51-74.



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