Relationships along the organic supply chain

Haley Baron, Carolyn Dimitri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Since the implementation of the National Organic Program in 2002, the US organic market has grown in both scale and scope, consequently placing pressure on the organic supply chain. The crucial role of matching consumer demand for final products with farm-level production falls to certified organic handlers, the intermediary firms that process, manufacture and distribute organic products. Locating certified organic commodities and products that meet their needs, in a timely manner, is costly and challenging. The paper aims to discuss these issues. Design/methodology/approach: A mixed-methods study was designed to better understand organic sector supply chain relationships in the USA. Data were collected from certified organic handlers via survey and semi-structured interviews. Those interviewed were randomly selected from 153 survey respondents who expressed an interest in being interviewed. This paper presents an analysis of interviews with 26 certified organic handlers regarding the relationships with their suppliers. Findings: Three key concepts characterize the relationships between handlers and their suppliers: closeness, support and commitment. Nearly all handler supplier relationships possess some degree of closeness, where the handler expresses interest in their supplier. The relationships follow a spectrum of intensity, where the least engaged handlers provide little support and commitment, and the most engaged handlers provide support and commitment through a long-term relationship or contract. Originality/value: Research into the organic supply chain is challenging to undertake, given the proprietary nature of the relationships. As the organic market continues to grow, the relationships along the supply chain will need to evolve to allow firms to meet consumer demand.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)771-786
Number of pages16
JournalBritish Food Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 17 2019


  • Buyer–seller relationships
  • Organic marketing
  • Supply chain
  • USA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)


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