The paper examines innovation in the agrifood sector through an analysis of relationships between public institutions and the private sector. The first part is theoretical and analyses the roles played by public and private actors in innovation. The second part is a case study of the beef supply chain of COOP, the biggest retailer on the Italian market. It exemplifies product innovation driven by a regulatory framework and shows how organisation and structural renewal required by animal welfare legislation can lead to voluntary initiatives and additional innovation along the supply chain. The case study also features the role of institutions in communications and shows how market awareness drives improvement in organisation of production chains.