The food sector in Europe can be characterised as a complex, global and dynamically changing network of trade streams, food supply network relations and related product flows and offers a big spectrum for economic output and employment. Innovation isimportant for the competitivenessof the food industry that is to a large extent comprised by small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Furthermore innovation has grown extremely subordinate to interaction in networks. Network initiatives that could provide appropriate support involve social interaction and knowledge exchange, learning and competence development, and coordination (organization) and management of implementation. This paper was designed to assess the factors that affect the performance of German food SME formal networks. It also addressed the consequences at the network and macro level. The analysis was explored by using the laddering technique based on means-end chain theory. These findings will help to build up a “network learning toolbox” that is adapted to the particular requirements of the different segments of the target group of SMEs, network managers and policy makers. The “network learning toolbox” should improve the network learning, which drives to raised innovation, economic growth and sustainable competitive advantage for food SMEs.


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