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Collaborative firms managing perishable products in a complex supply network: an empirical analysis of performance

Juan Carlos Pérez Mesa (Department of Economics and Business, University of Almería, Almería, Spain)
Emilio Galdeano-Gómez (Department of Economics and Business, University of Almería, Almería, Spain.)

Supply Chain Management

ISSN: 1359-8546

Article publication date: 9 March 2015




This purpose of this study is to provide empirical evidence of how cooperation is related to suppliers’ performance, a relationship that is thought to be affected by the type of customer and the extent to which the market is diversified. It analyzes horticultural exporting firms in southeastern Spain, which are the main suppliers of European markets. Together with their primary customers (large-scale retail companies such as Carrefour, Tesco and Aldi), these firms constitute a complex supply network composed of a variety of agents and sales channels. This network will be studied from the perspective of the supplier–supplier relationship that is critical to their survival.


Starting with a detailed description of Europe’s vegetable supply chain, a hierarchical regression is used with an index of cooperation intensity, moderated by retail sales and market concentration. The authors test the hypotheses using panel data on a set of 118 horticultural marketing firms in southeast Spain for the period 2009-2011.


Cooperation strategies are shown to have positive effects on performance (market creation, promotion, quality, training, joint supply purchases and research ventures). Moreover, the retail channel and market diversification are observed to have a positive effect on the relationship between cooperation and the supplier’s performance. They demonstrate that active cooperation strategies have a greater bearing on performance in those firms whose primary customers are retailers. This circumstance provides evidence of the synergies and benefits that may arise when the supplier integrates the retailer in the supply chain, but which do not arise with other types of customers.

Research limitations/implications

Although this study refers to a specific sector (fruits and vegetables) and the statistical results are limited, they provide insights that may assist in understanding how other perishable produce-related industries work: such industries share many common features.

Practical implications

A more stable relationship between suppliers and retailers in the perishable produce market will render the supply firm more cooperative, competitive and profitable. Increased performance does not arise from the better conditions and improved sales power offered by the customer but instead from the adaptability of the supplier. Likewise, market diversification drives the supply firm toward a cooperative strategy, making it more profitable and competitive. As a practical norm, market diversification alone will not have positive results on performance unless the firm proves capable of enhancing its capacity for cooperation.

Social implications

Proper management of the agricultural produce supply chain has repercussions on all of the members of that chain, although special emphasis should be placed on producers and consumers. The availability of food, its quality and its safety depend on management during the production phase. Along these lines, and more specifically for the consumer, this work is relevant because the sector analyzed accounts for 40 per cent of the vegetables consumed in Europe.


This article defends the supplier–supplier relationship as the starting point for the analysis of a supply network. In certain sectors, the suppliers’ ability both to solve their clients’ problems and to be profitable is conditioned on maintaining the network and, therefore, the basic focus must center on analyzing their relationships, always including the customer, who has a direct or indirect influence on those relationships. Previous research has not comprehensively addressed this issue, let alone that of a sector with agile and perishable products in which, due to its nature, decision-making about market destinations and sales channels is the order of the day.



Pérez Mesa, J.C. and Galdeano-Gómez, E. (2015), "Collaborative firms managing perishable products in a complex supply network: an empirical analysis of performance", Supply Chain Management, Vol. 20 No. 2, pp. 128-138.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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