Relationship connectors in NZ fresh produce supply chains
Purpose Understanding the multitude of linkages that exist between customer requirements, the characteristics of fresh produce, the functions performed by supply chains, and how these impact on relationships in chains is important if the trend towards relationship marketing in the fresh produce industry are to be better understood. The purpose of this paper is to present the results of an empirical study of New Zealand fresh produce supply chains that investigates such multiple linkages. Design/methodology/approach A theoretical framework was developed for the study, where relationships were characterised as relationship connectors between parties. This framework was operationalised using two case studies of fresh produce supply chains in the South Island of New Zealand. Findings Relationships in the chains were characterised by very strong information exchange, relatively strong cooperative norms, strong operational linkages and specific buyer-seller adaptations. Relationships connected in these ways facilitated the supply chain functions of procurement, quality, logistics and information. This ensured that the challenges facing these supply chain functions, the market requirements of fresh produce and product characteristics, could be managed. Research limitations/implications Because of the method used, it is not possible to empirically generalise from the findings. The key theoretical generalisation that emerges is that relationships in fresh produce supply chains are connected in ways that will enable the challenges facing the management of the different supply chain functions to be met. Originality/value of paper This finding uses the theory of relationship connectors to contribute to the expanding knowledge base of academics and practitioners on relationship marketing in the food industry.