Supermarket Own Brands, Supply Chains and the Transformation of the Agri-food System



Published Jan 5, 2005
David Burch Geoffrey Lawrence


The growth in consumption of supermarket ‘own brand’ food lines is having a significant impact on the organization and management of agri-food supply chains. In past decades, first-generation supermarket own brands were usually produced by established processing companies, which simply put a supermarket label on food lines already being marketed as branded products. Today, many own brand products are being produced for the supermarkets by newly-emerging specialist processing companies which manufacture nothing but supermarket lines. These specialist processing companies, which comprise an important element of the new supply chains established by globalizing supermarkets, utilize just-in-time techniques and flexible production systems to supply a range of innovative food lines, from home-prepared meals to fresh, unprocessed, foods. Their emergence signifies a profound shift in the system of provisioning, which can be linked to wider changes accompanying globalisation. This paper explores the theoretical and policy implications of such changes, and argues that they foreshadow the emergence of a third food regime.

How to Cite

Burch, D. . and Lawrence, G. . (2005) “Supermarket Own Brands, Supply Chains and the Transformation of the Agri-food System ”, The International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food. Paris, France, 13(1), pp. 1–18. doi: 10.48416/ijsaf.v13i1.312.
Abstract 3423 | PDF Downloads 1484


ACNielsen 2004. The power of the Private Label: A Review of Growth Trends Around the World. At Accessed on 25 March 2004.
Beck, U. 1992. Risk Society. London: Sage.
Blythman, J. 2004. Shopped: The Shocking Power of British Supermarkets. London: Fourth Estate.
Bonanno, A. 1994. ‘The Locus of Polity Action in a Global Setting’. In From Columbus to ConAgra: the Globalisation of Agriculture and Food, edited by A. Bonanno, L. Busch, W. Friedland, L. Gouveia and E. Mingione. Kansas: University Press of Kansas: 251-264.
Bonanno, A., Busch, L., Friedland, W., Gouveia, L. and Mingione, E. Eds. 1994. From Columbus to ConAgra: the Globalisation of Agriculture and Food. Kansas: University Press of Kansas.
Boston Consulting Group (2003). Private Label: Threat to Manufacturers, Opportunity for Retailers, Chicago: BCG.
Boston Globe 2004. ‘Sandwich Shop Cuts Fat, Feeds Profits: Subways Growth Anything But Lean’, 4 December.
Burch, D., Lyons, K. and Lawrence, G. 1998. ‘What Do we Mean by Green? Consumers, Agriculture and the Food Industry’. In Consuming Foods, Sustaining Environments, edited by S. Lockie and B. Pritchard. Brisbane: Australian Academic Press: 33-46.
Burch, D. and Goss, J. 1999a. ‘Global Sourcing and Retail Chains: Shifting Relationships of Production of Australian Agri-foods’. Rural Sociology 64, 2: 2334-50.
Burch, D. and Goss, J. 1999b. ‘An End to Fordist Food? Economic Crisis and the Fast Food Sector in Southeast Asia’. In Restructuring Global and Regional Agricultures: Transformations in Australasian Agri-food Economies and Spaces, edited by D. Burch, J.Goss and G. Lawrence. London: Ashgate: 87-110.
Burch, D. and Rickson, R. 2001. ‘Industrialized Agriculture: Agribusiness, Input Dependency and Vertical Integration’. In Rurality Bites: the Social and Environmental Transformation of Rural Australia, edited by S. Lockie and L. Bourke. Sydney: 165-177.
Burch, D, 2005, ‘Burch, D. ‘Production, Consumption and Trade in Poultry: Corporate Linkages and North-South Supply Chains’. In Cross-continental Food Chains: Structures, Actors and Dynamics in the Global Food System, edited by N. Fold and W. Pritchard. London: Routledge: 166-78.
Busch, L. and Bain, C. 2004. ‘New! Improved? The Transformation of the Global Agri-food System’. Rural Sociology 69, 3: 321-346.
Business Europe 2001. ‘The Sun Sets on the Great UK Sandwich Boom’, at Accessed on 18 December 2004.
Campbell, H. 2004. ‘Green Protectionism Part 2: EUREP-GAP, Agri-food Systems and the Decline of Organic Exporting from New Zealand’. Paper Presented to the World Congress of the International Rural Sociological Association, Trondheim.
Cox, A, Ireland, P., Lonsdale, C., Sanderson, J. and Watson, G. 2002. Supply Chains, Markets and Power: Mapping Buyer and Supplier Power Regimes. London: Routledge.
Department of Transport. 2003. ‘Life Cycle Modelling C02 Emissions for Lettuce, Appleas and Cherries’, UK Government, at Accessed on 3 May 2005.
Dixon, J. 2002. The Changing Chicken: Chooks, Cooks and Culinary Culture. Sydney: UNSW Press.
Dixon, J. 2003. ‘Authority, Power and Value in Contemporary Industrial Food Systems’. International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food 11, 1: 31-40.
Dixon, J. 2004. ‘Adding Value(s): a Cultural Economy Analysis of Supermarket Power’. In A Sociology of Food and Nutrition: the Social Appetite, edited by J. Germov and L. Williams. Second Edition. Melbourne: Oxford: 96-115.
Doel, C. 1996. ‘Market Development and Organizational Change: The Case of the Food Industry’. In Retailing, Consumption and Capital: Towards a New Retail Geography, edited by N. Wrigley and M. Lowe. Harlow: Longman: 48 – 67.
Dow Jones Newswires 2001. ‘Unilever: Path to Growth Program “Well on Plan”,’ 9 May. Financial Times 2001. ‘Unilever to Axe 8000 Jobs Worldwide’, 28 April.
Dutch News Digest 2004. ‘Anglo-Dutch Unilever to Close Factory in UK Grimsby’, 7 October. Food Standards Agency 2003. ‘Curry Factfile’ at, Accessed on 28 April 2005.
Foster, S. 2003. ‘What Makes Tesco Tick’, Private Label Magazine, Fall 2003, at, accessed on 25 March 2004.
Friedmann, H. and McMichael, P. 1989. ‘Agriculture and the State System: the Rise and Decline of National Agricultures, 1870 to the Present’. Sociologia Ruralis 29: 93-117.
Friedmannn, H. 2004. Personal communication.
Gray, I. and Lawrence, G. 2001. A Future for Regional Australia: Escaping Global Misfortune. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Harvey, M., Quilley, S. and Beynon, H. 2002. Exploring the Tomato: Transformations of Nature, Society and Economy. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
Hendrickson, M., Heffernan, W., Howard, P. and Heffernan, J. 2001. Consolidation in Food Retailing and Dairying: Implications for Farmers and Consumers in a Global Food System. Aurora, Illinois: National Farmers Union.
Holmes, J. 2002. ‘Diversity and Change in Australia’s Rangelands: a Post-productivist Transition with a Difference?’ Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 27: 362-384.
Holmes, J. Forthcoming 2005. ‘Impulses Towards a Multifunctional Transition in Rural Australia: Gaps in the Research Agenda’. Paper submitted to Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers.
Hughes, A. 1996. ‘Forging New Cultures of Food Retailer-Manufacturer Relations?’ In Retailing, Consumption and Capital: Towards a New Retail Geography, edited by N. Wrigley and M. Lowe. Harlow: Longman: 90-115.
KPMG Global Consumer Market 2000. ‘Customer Loyalty and Private Label Products’. London: KPMG.
Lawrence, F. 2004. Not on the Label: What Really Goes in the Food on Your Plate. Victoria: Penguin.
Lawrence, G. 1987. Capitalism and the Countryside: the Rural Crisis in Australia. Sydney: Pluto Press.
Lawrence, G. 1998. ‘The Institute for Sustainable Regional Development’. In Sustainable Futures: Towards a Catchment Management Strategy for the Central Queensland Region, edited by J. Grimes, G. Lawrence and D. Stehlik. Rockhampton: Queensland: Institute for Sustainable Regional Development: 6-8.
Leatherhead Food RA, 2005. ‘The European Ready Meals Market’, at Accessed on 3 May 2005
Le Heron, R. 1993. Globalized Agriculture: Political Choice. Oxford: Pergamon Press.
McMichael, P. 2004. Development and Social Change: A Global Perspective, Third Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.
McMichael, P. 2004. Personal communication.
Marsden, T. 1997. ‘Creating Space for Food: The Distinctiveness of Recent Agrarian Development’. In Globalising Food: Agrarian Questions and Global Restructuring, edited by D. Goodman and M. Watts. London: Routledge:169-191.
Marsden, T. 2003. The Condition of Rural Sustainability. The Netherlands: Royal Van Gorcum. Marsden, T., Flynn, A. and Harrison, M. 2000. Consuming Interests: The Social Provision of Foods. London: UCL Press.
Marsden, T. and Sonnino, T. Forthcoming 2005. ‘Rural Development and Agri-food Governing in Europe: Tracing the Development of Alternatives’. In Agricultural Governance: Globalization and the New Politics of Regulation, edited by V. Higgins and G. Lawrence. London: Routledge.
News Telegraph, 17 December 2004. ‘Caesar Salad Wrap Outsells the Sandwich’, at Accessed on 18 December 2004.
Office of Fair Trading. 2004. The Supermarket Code of Practice: Report on the Review of the Operation of the Code of Practice in the Undertakings given by Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury and Safeway to the Secretary of State and Industry on 18 December 2001. London: UK Government.
Pritchard, B. 1999. ‘Switzerland’s Billabong? Brand Management in the Global Food System and Nestle Australia’. In Restructuring Global and Regional Agricultures; Transformations in Australasian Agri-food Economies and Spaces, edited by D. Burch, J. Goss and G. Lawrence. Aldershot: Avebury: 23-40.
Rashid, J. 2003. ‘Convenience and Snack Foods’. Management Briefing, Bromsgrove: Aroq/Just-Food.
Reid, M. 1995. ‘Change at the Checkout’, The Economist 334, 7904, 4 March.
Ward, N. 1993. ‘The Agricultural Treadmill and the Rural Environment in the Post-productivist Era’, Sociologia Ruralis 33: 348-364.
Wilkinson, J. 2002. ‘The Final Foods Industry and the Changing Face of the Global Agro-food system’, Sociologia Ruralis 42, 4: 329-346.
Wilson, G. 2001. ‘From Productivism to Post-productivism ... And Back Again? Exploring the (Un)changed Natural and Mental Landscapes of European Agriculture’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 26: 77-102.
Winson, A. 1993. The Intimate Commodity: Food and the Development of the Canadian Agro-Industrial Complex. Toronto: Garamond Press.