The use of electronic commerce for quality control and cost cutting efficiencies by the food and agricultural industries in the United States is the focus of this paper. The food industry engages in e-commerce through 1.) Internet shopping for consumers called business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce 2.) Business-to-business (B2B) Internet market discovery exchanges used by food suppliers at any point in the supply chain, and 3.) Business-to-business (B2B) relationships that reduce costs and increase efficiencies in the procurement, storage and delivery of food to retail stores or distribution centers. This third use of e-commerce is the most highly developed and widely adopted. It allows retailers to share information about consumers' purchases and preferences with food manufacturers and farmers and for tracking food products' characteristics, source, and movement from production to consumer. This circle of information allows high quality and consistent products to be consumed at lower prices. This paper is about the development of e-commerce in the food industry, the economic concepts and goals that it meets, and the changes it brings to the industry. E-commerce both fosters and demands vertical coordination. It favors consolidation of firms. It changes the business culture from one of adversarial relationships to one of cooperation and trust. It changes the historical supply chain into a supply/demand loop while it lowers the cost of food. Policy issues arise around monopoly power, privacy, a diminution of variety, and the demise of small, undercapitalized firms.


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