Inderscience Publishers

Competitive behaviour, design and technical innovation in food and beverage multinationals

The main objective of this paper is to analyse long-term regularities in the pattern of generating technical innovation among global food and beverage multinationals (FBMs). In order to investigate persistent technological practices, we study a panel of 16,698 utility and design patents granted to 103 major FBMs from 1977 to 1994 and present econometric evidence on a joint-product formulation of such companies' patents. The joint-product hypothesis implies that the production of patented inventions in FBMs is closely associated with both the effect of past research efforts in the multinational itself, and utility and design patents produced by other global F&B companies within the same sector. However, patenting in FBMs pertaining to other agri-food sectors does not induce technical innovation or new designs at the company level. Global food and drink firms show a stable pattern of technological accumulation in which 'success breeds success' but are also influenced by technical and design innovation developed within their international agri-food sector. Persistence is apparent not only in innovation intrinsic to foodstuffs and processes but also in packaging aesthetics. The temporary impact of past innovation is about two years in both cases. Technical and design innovations are associated. Technological opportunity seems to be similar across sectors.

Keywords: competitive behaviour, design, innovation, patents, multinational enterprises, food and beverage industry

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