Strategies on innovation in agrifood multinationals

Oscar Alfranca, Ruth Rama, Nicholas von Tunzelmann


Agrifood multinationals are usually considered the world’s most important innovators in the F&B field and fundamental agents for technological change in the Spanish agrifood sector. The innovative behaviour of agrifood multinational firms issue is interesting because 50% of technology related to food is linked to innovative activities of these kind of firms. This paper includes a survey on several subjects related to innovation in the agrifood industry, such as the economic conditions for innovation production and the persistence of innovation. The main conclusions based on empirical work with patent data are: 1. Agrifood multinationals combine technical and design innovation rather than using one type of innovation as a substitute for the other. 2. Becoming a permanent innovator is relevant for agrifood multinational firms because the stock of knowledge, which is strategically important, is cumulative. 3. Agrifood multinationals are more prone than other multinationals to globalize their R&D activities. This is particularly true for European agrifood multinationals. 4. Agrifood multinationals are multi-technology companies.


Agrifood multinational; patents; innovation; food industry

Subject classification

F23, L66.

Full Text:



Acs, Z.J. y Audretsch, D.B. (1989). «Patents as a measure of innovative activity». WZB, Berlin, pp. 1-13.

Alfranca, O. y Huffmann, W.E. (2001). «Impact of institutions and public research on private agricultural research». Agricultural Economics 5(2-3):191-198.

Alfranca, O.; Rama, R. y von Tunzelmann, N. (2001). «Cumulative innovation in food and beverage multinationals». Global Business & Economics Review, Bussiness and Economics Society International,Worcester, MA, Anthology 2001.

Alfranca, O.; Rama, R. y von Tunzelmann, N. (2004). «Innovation spells in the multinational agrifood sector», Technovation (en prensa).

Alfranca, O.; Rama, R. y von Tunzelmann, N. (2002). «A patent analysis of global food and beverage firms: the persistence of innovation». Agribusiness. An International Journal 18(3).

Alfranca, O.; Rama, R. y von Tunzelmann, N. (2003). «Competitive behaviour, design and technical innovation in food and beverage multinationals», International Journal of Biotechnology, vol. 5, n.° 3/4, coedición con el International Journal of Technology Managenent.

Anastassopoulos, G.; Papanastassiou, M.; Pearce, R.D. y Traill,W.B. (1997). «Firm and location. Specific determinants in investment and trade strategies of major multinationals in the food industry in Europe». In S.R. Henneberry (Ed.), Foreign direct investment and processed food trade, pp. 57-78. Oklahoma.

Archibugi, D. y Iammarino, S. (2000). «Innovation and globalization». In F. Chesnais, G. Ietto-Gillies, R. Simonetti (Eds.), European integration and global strategies, pp. 95-120. London-NY. Routledge.

Archibugi, D. y Michie, J. (1995). «The globalisation of technology: a new taxonomy». Cambridge Journal of Economics, 19:121-140.

Archibugi, D. y Pianta, M. (1992). «Specialization and size of technological activities in industrial countries: The analysis of patent data». Research Policy, 21:79-93.

Blanc, H. y Sierra, C. (1999). «The internationalisation of R&D by multinationals: a trade-off between external and internal proximity». Cambridge Journal of Economics, 23:187-206.

Bound, J.; Cummins, C.; Griliches, Z.; Hall, B.H. y Jaffe, A. (1984). «Who does R&D and who patents?» In Z. Griliches (Ed.), R&D, Patents, and Productivity, pp. 21-54, University of Chicago Press.

Breschi, S.; Malerba, F. y Orsenigo, L. (2000). «Empirical patterns of firm growth and R&D investment: a quality ladder model interpretation». Economic Journal, 110:388-410.

Cantwell, J. y Hodson, C. (1991). «Global R&D and UK competitiveness». In M. Casson (Ed.), Global Research Strategy and International Competitiveness, pp. 133-183. Oxford and Cambridge: Basil Blackwell.

Cantwell, J. y Janne, O. (1999). «Technological globalization and innovative centres: the role of corporate technological leadership and locational hierarchy». Research Policy, 28(2-3):119-144.

Cantwell, J. y Janne, O. (2000). «Globalization of innovatory capacity: the structure of competence accumulation in European home and host countries». In F. Chesnais, G. Ietto-Gillies, R. Simonetti (Eds.), European integration and global corporate strategies. London NY: Routledge.

Caves, R.E. (1996). Multinational enterprise and economic analysis (2nd ed.). Cambridge University Press.

Cefis, E. y Orsenigo L. (2001). «The persistence of innovative activities. A cross-countries and cross-sectors comparative analysis». Research Policy, 30:1139-1158.

Christensen, J.L.; Rama, R. y von Tunzelmann, N. (1996). Study on innovation in the European Food Products and Beverages Industry: 145. The European Commission: EIMS/SPRINT Brussels.

Connor, J.M. (1981). «Food product proliferation: A market structure analysis». American Journal of Agricultural Economics.

Dunning, J.H. (1993). The globalisation of business. Routledge. London-NY.

Dunning, J.H. (1994). «Multinational enterprises and the globalization of innovatory capacity ». Research Policy, 23:67-68.

National Science Foundation. (1996). Science and engineering indicators 1996. US Government Printing Office. Washington D.C.

Freeman, C. (1994). «The economics of technical change». Cambridge Journal of Economics 18:463-514.

Geroski, P.A.; Van Reenen, J. y Walters, C.F. (1997). «How persistently do firms innovate?» Research Policy, 26:33-48.

Granstrand, O.; Hakansson, H. y Sjölander, S. (1993). «Internationalization of R&D- a survey of some recent research». Research Policy, 22:413-430.

IAMM. (1990). Les 100 premiers groupes agro-alimentaires mondiaux. Montpellier (France).

OECD. (1979). Impact of Multinational Enterprises on National Scientific and Technical Capacities. OECD. París.

OECD. (1988). Industrial Revival Through Technology, pp. 250. OECD. París.

Padilla, M.; Laval, G.G.; Allaya, M.C. y Allaya, M. (1983). Les cent premiers groupes Agro-Industriels Mondiaux. Montpellier (France).

Patel, P. (1995). «Localised production of technology for global markets». Cambridge Journal of Economics 19:141-153.

Patel, P. y Pavitt, K. (1991). «Large firms in the production of the world’s technology: an important case of ‘non-globalisation». Journal of International Business Studies, 22:1-21.

Patel, P. y Pavitt, K. (1995). «Patterns of technological activity: their measurement and interpretationed». In P. Stoneman (Ed.), Handbook of the Economics of Innovation and Technological Change, Blackwell.

Patel, P. y Pavitt, K. (1997). «The technological competencies of the world’s largest firms: complex and path-dependent, but not much variety». Research Policy, 26:141-156.

Patel P., y Vega, M. (1999). «Patterns of internationalisation of corporate technology: location vs. home country advantages». Research Policy, 28:145-155.

Rama, R. (1991). «El entorno tecnológico de la empresa alimentaria». INRA Economie et Sociologie Rurales. París 7 (monográfico sobre «Changement Technique et restructuration de l’industrie agro-alimentaire en Europe», R. Fanfani, G. Green y M. Rodríguez-Zúñiga, eds.), pp. 59-93.

Rama, R. (1992). Investing in Food. OECD Development Centre Studies. París.

Rama, R. (1996). «Les multinationales et l’innovation. Localisation des activités technologiques de l’agro-alimentaire». Economie Rurale. Paris 231 (Janvier-Février) pp. 62-68.

Rama, R. (1998). «Growth in food an drink multinationals, 1977-94: an empirical investigation ». Journal of International Food & Agribusiness Marketing, 10(1):31-51.

Rama, R. (1999). «Innovation and Profitability of global food firms. Testing for differences in the influence of the home base». Environment and Planning A, 31:735-751.

Rama, R. y Calatrava, A. (2002). «La internacionalización del sistema agroalimentario español, comercio exterior e inversión extranjera directa». In C. Gómez-Benito y J.J. González (Eds.), Agricultura y sociedad en el cambio de siglo, pp. 181-229. Madrid. McGrawHill UNED.

Rastoin, J.L.; Ghersi G.; Pérez R. y Tozanli S. (1998). Structures, performances et stratégies des groupes agro-alimentaires multinationaux. AGRODATA. Montpellier.

Rastoin, J.L. y Tozanli S. (1998). «Géostratégies des firmes agroalimentaires». In J.-L. Rastoin (Ed.), Mondialisation et géostratégies agroalimentaires, 109:51-67. AGRO-INRA, Montpellier (France).

Rodríguez-Zúñiga, M.; Sanz Cañada, J. y Perez y Perez, L. (1991). «Tendencias y estrategias del capital extranjero en la industria agroalimentaria española». Investigación Agraria, 6(2):266-287.

Rodriguez-Zúñiga, M. y Sanz Cañada, J. (1994). «Reestructuración y estrategias empresariales de la industria agroalimentaria». Papeles de Economía Española, nº 60-61:252-263.

Rosenberg, N. (1982). Inside the Black Box: Technology and Economics. Cambridge.

Soete, L. (1987). «The impact of technological innovation on international trade patterns: The evidence reconsidered». Research Policy, 16:101-130.

Stopford, J.M. y Dunning J.H. (1983). Multinationals. Company performance and global trends. McMillan Publishers. London.

Telser, L. (1961). How much does it pay whom to advertise? Amer. Economic Rev. (Proc.). May, pp. 194-205.

Tozanli, S. (1998). «Capital concentration among the food multinational enterprises and development of the world’s agro-food system». Int. J. Technology Management, 16(7):695-710.

Wilkinson, J. (1998). «The R&D priorities of leading food firms and long-term innovation in the agrofood system». International Journal of Technology Management, 16:711-720.

Zander, I. (1997). «Technological diversification in the multinational corporation - historical evolution and the future prospects». Research Policy, 26:209-227.

Abstract Views

Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM


  • There are currently no refbacks.

 Universitat Politècnica de València

e-ISSN: 2174-7350   ISSN: 1578-0732