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Constructing a typology of trust in asymmetrical food business relationships

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Purpose ‐ This paper aims to present insights into representations of discursive trust in asymmetrical business-to-business relationships in food chains. The purpose is to understand and define the interorganisational trust in business relationships by viewing these inductive findings in light of the relevant literature. Design/methodology/approach ‐ Discourse analysis of interviews with individuals in the food processing industry is used to determine different representations of trust. Findings ‐ Three representations of trust emerged from the interviews. They indicate that trust is a complex and dynamic phenomenon. The representations found were: a key operational element; recognition of context; and relationship resource stemming from individual bonds and personal characters. Trust is associated with control and context in the food industry as well as with a business's size and its customer reputation. Research limitations/implications ‐ The implications for food chain participants and other stakeholder groups are discussed to emphasise further the research on trust. However, because the discursive representations are context-specific, changes in economic, market or relationship power situations can prompt new and different representations. Practical implications ‐ This paper provides complementary insights into the challenges that business relationships face in their daily processes. The results can be used to recognise and analyse the dynamic and asymmetrical contexts of business relationships and build the competitive advantages of businesses. Trust can actively be used as a tool to distinguish a business from its competitors. Originality/value ‐ This research increases understanding of the representations of trust in an asymmetrical food business context and offers some new analytical tools for the current trust research.

Keywords: Asymmetry; Buyer-seller relationships; Customer relations; Discourse analysis; Food processing industry; Trust

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2012-06-29

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