Adaptation in Food Networks: Theoretical Frame Work and Empirical Evidences

Gaetano Martino, Angelo Frascarelli


The objective of the paper is to contribute to a better understanding of the governance of the food networks focusing on two related aspect: the integration among the agents and the adaptation in the face of emerging disturbances. The paper aims at addressing the problem on what are the role of the adaptation processes in the implementation of sustainable strategies in Food Networks. Adaptation is a central problem of economic organisations (Williamson, 1985, 1991), and its conceptualisation is integrated within complementary theoretical perspectives. Among them, the adaptation theory asks whether integration or non-integration better facilitates ‘adaptive, sequential decision making’ in the sense of Williamson (Gibbon, 2005, p. 205). According to Gibbons (2005) the adaptive, sequential decision-making is modelled in terms of contracting the ex ante allocation of critical decisions rights across firms boundaries to the party who is expected to maximize the total surplus of the relationship. After having elaborated and presented the theoretical framework, the paper illustrates and discusses six cases of governance agreement. Three cases concern with agreement arranged at the Italian National level, three cases regard regional level Food Networks. Beyond the differences in the institutional environments, the cases also differ because of the degree of integration. The field research was carried out by documents analysis and interviews. The paper contributes to the literature by corroborating the theoretical hypothesis (Gibbons, 2005; Wu, 2006) and providing empirical information about the management of Food Networks in the face of emerging disturbances in critical fields: sustainability, quality systems and innovation.

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ISSN 2194-511X


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