Managing innovation and digital transformation post-pandemic in Food & Beverage companies


The global pandemic has posed urgent challenges and opportunities for food companies and their innovation processes. Collaboration and digitalization are springboards for a post-pandemic restart. We urge empirical evidence in this regard, to give answers to scholars, policy makers and managers/practitioners of food and non-food companies. As a consequence, this call for papers aim to attract papers shedding light on how F&B companies should evolve in order to survive in the future radically bustled post pandemic global scenario.

Companion Special Issue

This special issue of European Journal of Innovation Management is a companion special issue to 'Digitization and innovation of the food and beverage industry in the post-pandemic era: challenges, drivers and opportunities' in British Food Journal. The BFJ call for papers is available here

List of topic areas

  • Strategic options for managing innovation and digital transformation in the F&B sector.
  • Open innovation strategies and processes to foster food and beverage companies' growth.
  • Digital ecosystems in the food and beverage industry.
  • Challenges and new ways of building trust on food businesses' consumers.
  • How to innovate F&B business models after the Pandemic.
  • Digitalisation of business models for F&B companies' growth.
  • Digital platforms as a springboard for SMEs recovery in F&B industry.
  • New F&B consumers' behaviors and how digital technologies interact.
  • Technological innovation enhancing sustainability of agri-food businesses.

Guest Editors

Stefano Bresciani, University of Turin, Italy, [email protected]

Alberto Ferraris, University of Turin, Italy, [email protected] 

Gabriele Baima, University of Turin, [email protected]

Najid Ahmad, School of Business, Hunan University of Science and Technology, Xiangtan, Hunan, China,  [email protected]   

Submissions Information

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Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to ““Please select the issue you are submitting to”.

Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.

Key deadlines

Closing date for manuscripts submission: 10th of January, 2023          

Email for submissions: [email protected]

Literature background and references for the special issue topics

Innovation and digitalization in Food & Beverage industry:

New technologies such as the Internet of things, Information communication technologies, AI, blockchain are drastically shaping the way of doing business and consumers expectations in several segments (Bresciani et al., 2018; Troise et al., 2022). The food and beverage (F&B) industry does not make an exception, but it can be considered one of the verticals that are revolutionising the most. Firms in this industry usually tend to follow an open innovation (OI) approach to remain competitive in the market (Costa et al., 2016; Bresciani, 2017; Ferraris et al., 2020). Moreover, the necessity to find alternative ways of producing and distributing food is nowadays a crucial challenge to contrast food waste and food losses happening in all the food supply chain stages (do Carmo Stangherlin and de Barcellos, 2018). The latest reports underline 931 million tonnes of food wasted yearly (close to 20% of total global production), and that 10% of global gas emissions arise from this food wasted (UNEP, 2021). In the latest years, we witnessed the development of new food sustainable business models through sharing platforms, like the success case of Too good to Go (Michelini et al., 2020), or thanks to industry 4.0 solutions (Dressler and Paunovic, 2020). These may respond to the current global scenario's urgent and more pressing challenges and threats.

Despite successful cases of innovation and its unavoidability, food businesses typically struggle to innovate products or their business models since, especially agri-food businesses, are mainly SMEs characterized by weak economic capabilities, limited R&D investments and capabilities (Scuotto et al., 2017). Moreover, despite the essentiality of the process management capability for innovation (Kafetzopoulos and Skalkos, 2018), it is culturally tricky for food business managers to alter well-established old fashioned production processes (Cillo et al., 2019). That could often become a driver of corporate tensions (Román et al., 2021). It is not a case that generally, smaller and younger food companies are more inclined to innovate (Avermaete et al., 2003). Therefore, scholars investigated how innovation can be more successful in food businesses. In this regard, Giacosa et al. (2017), investigation on food family business, reveals that tradition and innovation can coexist.

The tendency of having limited internal R&D capabilities in food businesses makes the crucial role of external knowledge sourcing and open innovation with other institutions like universities or research centers (Bigliardi and Ivo Dormio, 2009; Johnston, 2020), in terms of both new product development (Santoro et al., 2017) and for the sustainability of new start-ups in food business (Franceschelli et al., 2018). Nevertheless, inter-organisational collaborations and information gathering should be valued carefully (Ferraris et al., 2021), especially when the absorptive capacity is limited (Berchicci, 2013). In fact, food businesses in particular, characterized often by low internal R&D knowledge and low absorptive capacity, suffer more than other sectors of performances reduction when they rely too much on external sources (Bayona-Saez et al., 2017).

Looking beyond the realm of open innovation between companies and third-party institutions, scholars assert that inclusion and direct collaboration with consumers is among the most effective pathways towards breakthrough innovation (Altuna et al., 2017; Busse and Siebert, 2017). It is necessary, however, to remain cautious in publicizing innovative practices since although it is true that in an intra-company context it can bring benefits (Rahimnia and Molavi, 2020), often consumers can be resistant, perceiving a potential innovation instrumentalism, especially with regard to sustainability concerns (Heiskanen et al., 2007; Liang, 2016; Watanabe et al., 2020).

COVID-19 impact on Food & Beverage industry:

On top of the environmental challenges, the COVID-19 pandemic strongly contributed to the acceleration of the upheaval of the food business environment on different fronts. Firstly, global distribution has been and continues to be under great stress at both logistical and supply  level (Torero, 2020). Secondly, institutions now prepared and almost finalized several monetary incentives, grants, and founds to enhance business recovery. As an example, the European Commission allocated an amount of 386 billion euro for the common agricultural policy (CAP) for the period 2021-2027 (European Commission, 2020). Third, the pandemic profoundly changed consumer habits and preferences (Marinković and Lazarević, 2021). A remarkable fact is that, if in the last three years, food retail has been the fastest-growing segment online, after COVID-19 pandemic impact, it drastically ramped up with a +29,6% year-on-year growth in Europe, and forecasts draw a future in which online grocery will continue to be the fastest growing vertical online in following years (Statista. Inc, 2020).

The COVID-19 pandemic somehow stimulated the food businesses and their innovation acceleration (Galanakis et al., 2021). The some powerful grocery stores such as Morrisons or Aldi were able to set up their own delivery services in record time (Pavlou and Georgiou, 2021) meanwhile other like Carrefour settled up partnerships with specialized delivery services (Temiz and Broo, 2020), but also SMEs tried made an surviving effort. Gavrila and de Lucas Ancillo (2021), analysing the new website registration domains discovered that several Spanish food businesses developed a new website. Nonetheless, there are no certainties on the degree of efficacy these ultimate countermeasures in the mid and long term


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