Market strategies used by processed food manufacturers to increase and consolidate their power: a systematic review and document analysis

Benjamin Wood*, Owain Williams, Vij Nagarajan, Gary Sacks

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)
47 Downloads (Pure)


The public health community has become increasingly critical of the role that powerful corporations play in driving unhealthy diets, one of the leading contributors to the global burden of disease. While a substantial amount of work has examined the political strategies used by dominant processed food manufacturers that undermine public health, less attention has been paid to their use of market strategies to build and consolidate power. In this light, this paper aimed to systematically review and synthesise the market strategies deployed by dominant processed food manufacturers to increase and consolidate their power.

A systematic review and document analysis of public health, business, legal and media content databases (Scopus, Medline, ABI Inform, Business Source Complete, Thomas Reuters Westlaw, Lexis Advance, Factiva, NewsBank), and grey literature were conducted. Data extracted were analysed thematically using an approach informed by Porter’s ‘Five Forces’ framework.

213 documents met inclusion criteria. The market strategies (n=21) and related practices of dominant processed food manufacturers identified in the documents were categorised into a typological framework consisting of six interconnected strategic objectives: i) reduce intense competition with equivalent sized rivals and maintaining dominance over smaller rivals; ii) raise barriers to market entry by new competitors; iii) counter the threat of market disruptors and drive dietary displacement in favour of their products; iv) increase firm buyer power over suppliers; v) increase firm seller power over retailers and distributors; and vi) leverage informational power asymmetries in relations with consumers.

The typological framework is well-placed to inform general and jurisdiction-specific market strategy analyses of dominant processed food manufacturers, and has the potential to assist in identifying countervailing public policies, such as those related to merger control, unfair trading practices, and public procurement, that could be used to address market-power imbalances as part of efforts to improve population diets.
Original languageEnglish
Article number17
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalGlobalization and Health
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • market strategy
  • processed food manufacturers
  • market power
  • commercial determinants of health
  • food systems


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