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Abstract

The proposition that the preferences of consumers define the (maximal) value of the goods and services available to them, and should guide supplier management, is enjoying renewed emphasis courtesy of agribusiness research. The blossoming research literature on “value chains” in agribusiness contexts echoes the emphasis on the consumer that lay at the core of marketing theory, and spawned its rapid growth, over half a century ago. In both research domains, however, the quest for pragmatic guidance is often thwarted by the simplicity of inferencing derived from the proposition. The elegant simplicity, and ethical appeal, of this assertion of the centrality of consumer sovereignty (the “marketing concept”) can lead to naive implications and poor decisions, oblivious to profound contextual constraints, by private and public managers alike. In marketing this, among other factors, has led to a well-recognised gap between marketing theory and practice, much consideration of the impact and implications of the performativity of marketing decisions and historically high attention to the further development of marketing theory. These evolutions will inevitably inform agribusiness research. In this paper I identify the roles of consumer preferences and of other factors in defining output value and the implications of these for the definition of output and its efficient management. Consideration is given to implications for the management of private firms, value chains/marketing systems and public and third sector organisations.

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