Trust in the Agri-food Sector: A Typology with a Cultural Perspective

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


This chapter investigates what role trust plays for a company in the food business that is in need of a new supplier. It lays the foundation for the remainder of this book, in which electronic trust-related communication is the focus. The concept of trust can have many meanings, ranging from total, heartfelt reliance on one another, through trusting only some aspects - for instance, the good intentions, but not the competence - of a partner, to trusting that one can punish defaulting trade partners. Trust is needed in business relationships to mitigate transaction-related risks. This is important in a sector where quality problems can have severe consequences for consumers. The greater the perceived risks, the more energy a company will invest in making sure that new partners are trustworthy. Across Europe, national cultures differ greatly. In the north-west they tend to be egalitarian and individualistic, with the result that relationships are rather volatile and impersonal regulations are often in place. In the south and east, society is more hierarchical and collectivistic. Here, one tends to trust those one knows, and to distrust institutions. Accordingly, the dynamics of trust can be expected to vary across Europe, with more personalised relationships prevailing in the south and east. An investigation of the food sector using the literature and in-depth interviews shows that reputation is an important conveyor of information about trustworthiness in the food sector, particularly among smaller companies. Altogether, these various inputs have inspired a four-level typology of trust. The typology contains all possible elements of trust; some companies will focus on different subsets of the typology's elements from others. The top level distinguishes trust in the product from trust in the seller, with trust in the market environment - including enforcement institutions - as a third element. Empirical work using this typology is discussed in later chapters. Companies can use the typology as a checklist in new relationships, either to benchmark new partners or to assess how they might be perceived by them.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFood Supply Networks, Trust and E-business
EditorsM. Canavari, M. Fritz, G. Schiefer
Place of PublicationWallingford, UK
ISBN (Print)9781845936396
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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