The competitiveness of Canada's food processing industry: A resource-based approach



Lake, Linda Jo-Ann

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University of Guelph


This dissertation has three broad objectives. The first objective is to test the applicability of the resource-based theory of the firm in the context of the Canadian food processing industry. The second objective is to provide insight into other internal factors that may be contributing to the competitiveness of Canadian food processing companies. The third objective is to validate two competitiveness hypotheses, namely that operational flexibility is a competency of Canadian food processing companies and that strategic flexibility is an attribute of these companies. In order to address these objectives, a theoretical model based on the resource-based theory of the firm is developed and validated using the case method of research. The results suggest that the resource-based theory of the firm is applicable to managers in that managers were found to develop, nurture and leverage their competencies. However, the results also challenge two assertions of the resource-based theory of the firm literature, namely that companies should invest in barriers to imitation to protect their competencies, but most particularly that they should invest in the creation of causal ambiguity. The results also suggest that although the companies developed, nurtured and leveraged their competencies, other internal factors were important to their performance and competitiveness, including managing customer relationships and product innovation. Furthermore, the results establish that it is important for companies to understand their competencies, as well as these other factors, and interrelationships between them. This research did not validate the operational flexibility hypothesis given that only two companies were found to have it as a competency. The results, however, did illustrate that several dimensions of flexibility, such as mix and new product flexibility, must be present for a company to be able to draw a competitive advantage from operational flexibility. This research did validate the strategic flexibility hypothesis given that companies were found to monitor developments in their external environment, respond quickly to changing competitive conditions, and reassess components of their strategies. However, this research also found that the accumulation of market knowledge by managers was important to their strategic flexibility.



competition, Canada, food processing industry, operational flexibility, strategic flexibility