The Food Industry: Structure and Economics

Course content

The course deals with the industry in the value chain around the primary agricultural sector. That is, both up- and downstream industries connected to the agricultural sector. It thus includes the supply sector, the processing and refining industry as well as downstream industries towards the retail sector. These industries account for an ever larger - and the largest - part of the value added in the food value chain. They thus play a key role in food value chains, in the agri-industrial complex and for the global food supply and food security.

The course includes a description and analysis of the special conditions and challenges associated with the food industry; including economic, market, political, structural and environmental challenges. Food crises have become more and more widespread and they have affected a number of stakeholders, including food companies, but also food security in a global perspective.

An essential characteristic of the food industry is that cooperatives play a significant role, and this form of ownership and organization is discussed in more detail in the course. The vertical integration in the value chain is important: Market signals must be transferred upstream as efficiently as possible, disruptive middlemen must be eliminated, traceability in the value chain is a competitive parameter, resource use must be minimized, etc., and this demands well-integrated value chains.

In the course, specific emphasis is placed on the future conditions, and megatrends in relation to the food industry, the food markets and food value chains are an essential part of the course.

Sustainability and climate changes are major challenges to the food industry, so these challenges  are also included and analyzed.

Both national and international food companies are experiencing - or have experienced - extensive structural development: Mergers and acquisitions have created an industry with larger, fewer and more internationally oriented companies. The driving forces behind this development are highlighted, and consequences and degree of success are analyzed.

The course content has an international approach, so the international agri and food companies are the basis for the course. National conditions are included in the course as cases or as an illustration of trends, competitive strengths, drivers etc.

Essential topics in the course are listed below:

  • The uniqueness of food markets
  • Food crises
  • The food sector under economic development
  • Food clusters
  • Globalisation and food markets
  • Developing countries and food markets
  • Food demand
  • Food market policy
  • The structure of food industry
  • Cooperatives in the food industry
  • Mergers and acquisitions in the food industry
  • International food business
  • Models and methods in international food business
  • Sustainability of agri-food companies: Strategy, instruments and competitiveness
  • Megatrends of agriculture and food industry and food markets
  • Cases: Strategic challenges and solutions in agro and food companies
  • The Danish agri and food industry

MSc Programme in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics

Learning outcome

The main object of the course is to provide the student with basic and advanced understanding of the economic and market conditions related to the agri food industry and current knowledge of the industry. The objective is also to give the students an understanding of the structure, functions and environment of the agri-food economy in the entire food value chain nationally and internationally.

The objective is also to provide understanding of the business trends and megatrends in the food industry and the food cluster and to give inspiration to further studies. The students will have an understanding of elements of international competitiveness of agri-food industry with focus on economic, market and environmental sustainability.

After completing the course the student should be able to:


  • Define and describe some economic approaches in such a way as to be able to analyze the agri-food industry
  • Describe and explain the structure of agri-food industries in any country
  • Describe and analyze issues pertaining in the agri-food industry such as mergers, competitiveness, vertical linkages and globalization
  • Describe and analyze the special role of agri-food cooperatives and farm organizations
  • Describe and analyze strategies of agri-food companies
  • Understand and evaluate the globalization processes of agri-food companies
  • Describe and evaluate sustainabilty in strategies of food companies


  • Use basic economic and management models to analyze issues related to the organization of the food industry


  • Identify, describe and analyze the functions, structure and issues in the agri-food industry in any country
  • Cooperate with fellow students and industry experts in identifying problems,
  • Use theory, apply research methods, and communicate the results to experts and general audiences

Several different teaching methods are used in order to make the teaching more useful and attractive for the students. As an example, visits to agri and food companies and guest speakers from agri and food business institutions are major parts of the course. In general, teaching methods listed below are used

• Lectures
• Guest lectures by food companies and organisations
• Guest lectures by academic experts
• Discussions
• Case studies
• Excursions
• Weekly exercises
• Project report
• Project presentation

Course Literature to be announced at Absalon:

a. Text books

b. Case book

c. Slides
d. Journal articles
e. Industry reports



Optional prerequisites include subjects like market economics, international business and management. Interested students, who do not have the above background, are advised to consult the course coordinator.

Academic qualifications equivalent to a BSc degree is recommended.

The course is planned so that students from other institutions, faculties and universities can participate. If necessary, additional teaching in economics will be offered at the beginning of the course

Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)

Students present their project report, and questions, comments and feed back will be given by teacher and internal censor

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
On-site written exam, 2 hours under invigilation
Written assignment
Type of assessment details
a. 2-hour written examination in lecture hall
b. Report on study project and presentation. The report is about analyzing strategies, strategic challenges, business problems, food industry projects etc. for a specific agri- or food company. One or two students per project. It is specified at the beginning which is the contribution of each student. Students also are asked individual questions. Students receive individual evaluations at the end.
c. Weekly exercises. 6 out of 6 weekly exercises must be submitted.

Weight: Written exam: 30 pct. Reports and presentation: 40 pct. Exercises: 30 pct.

The grade is to be set as a weighted average of the results from the three examinations, and the course is passed if the weighted grade is passed.

The course has been selected for ITX exam
See important information about ITX-exams at Study Information, menu point: Exams -> Exam types and rules -> Written on-site exams (ITX)
All aids allowed

As the exam is an ITX-exam, the University will make computers available to students at the exam. Students are therefore not permitted to bring their own computers, tablets, calculators, or mobile phones.

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
One internal examiner

Oral examination covering the entire curriculum. Weight 100%. Duration 45 - 60 minutes. No time for preparation.

Criteria for exam assessment

See learning outcome

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 48
  • Preparation
  • 50
  • Excursions
  • 16
  • Project work
  • 60
  • Guidance
  • 30
  • Exam
  • 2
  • English
  • 206


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 block

Block 1
No limitation – unless you register in the late-registration period (BSc and MSc) or as a credit or single subject student.
Study Board of Natural Resources, Environment and Animal Science
Contracting department
  • Department of Food and Resource Economics
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator
  • Henning Otte Hansen   (3-787f78507976827f3e7b853e747b)

Henning Otte Hansen, Mobil: 30 61 22 87

Saved on the 19-02-2024

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