Business Concept as a Relational Message: Supermarket vs Independent Grocery as Competitors for Sustainability

Minna Mikkola


The paper deals with competition for sustainability between two business concepts, the supermarket and the independent grocery, both selling local and organic food. The paper is based on Finnish case evidence with very oligopolistic retail structure and its empirical and the theoretical interest focuses on the nature of economic exchange relations of these business concepts. The study shows how the supermarket is driven by market and hierarchic as well as power relations, regarding both suppliers and consumers. The business concept includes weak choice editing and indicates ‘consumer versus producer via retailer’ set-up. The independent grocery is at its core a social and partnership based endeavour, entailing strong choice editing for sustainability through the ‘consumer cum producer via retailer’ set-up. However, the supermarket may include more local and organic food in its product range on market conditions, in need of customer management, while the grocery can expand by decentralized multiplication of its business concept. The grocery also adds a new market channel for family farmers enabling better use of local resources, thereby renewing the market. This study shows the importance of the business concept as a condition and limitation for further growth, and explains the business concept as a relational message for sustainability.


Business concept; retail; supermarket; independent grocery; economic exchange relations; sustainability

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ISSN 1869-6945


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