Moving Boxes Closer to Home: The Role of SYSCO Corporation in Food System Localization

by Kennedy, David Scott

Abstract (Summary)
Increasing demand for local food by foodservice establishments creates new opportunities and challenges for the local food movement. While there is considerable potential for local suppliers to sell more product volume closer to home, the business needs of foodservice establishments may not be compatible with direct marketing approaches that have fueled the growth of the movement. Foodservice establishments typically rely on distributors to provide them with the majority of their food. Drawing on the success of direct marketing, new indirect marketing approaches that link producers and consumers through intermediaries are increasingly advanced within food system localization. The dominance of SYSCO Corporation as an intermediary for foodservice markets has stimulated a dialogue between food system localization actors and this national corporation. New corporate initiatives, such as Buy Local, Sell Fresh, highlight the entry of national corporations into the local food movement. Most of the literature and research on local food systems deals with direct marketing approaches, but there has been little discussion of the role of national foodservice distributors in local food systems, where their inclusion appears potentially contradictory to food system localization. Through in-depth interviews with a SYSCO Corporation official and a telephone survey of SYSCOs broadline operating companies, this research provides an analysis of this corporations current involvement in local food systems, focusing on how factors such as scale, social embeddedness, marketness, and instrumentalism influence these indirect markets. The results indicate that these factors appear as interrelated variables, influencing these markets and the relationships between network actors. While there are exceptions, the benefits of direct marketing which fostered the growth of the local food movement may be absent or marginalized in corporate-mediated foodservice markets. The overall role of SYSCO Corporation in local food systems appears to be fairly limited because there is often a conflation of local and regional, influencing both the procurement activities of SYSCO operating companies and their perspectives on the values associated with local food. There is, however, growing support for procurement at a regional level, evidenced through SYSCOs procurement activities and perspectives which relate to value chains in regional networks.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Dr. Neva Hassanein; Dr. Jill Belsky; Dr. David Shively

School:The University of Montana

School Location:USA - Montana

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:environmental studies


Date of Publication:07/24/2007

© 2009 All Rights Reserved.