The concept of "filière" was developed by French industrial economists between the late sixties and early seventies. It consists of the total of technical and transaction operations needed to obtain a finished product from some given raw material. Since then, the application of the concept has expanded in many research fields and particularly in the agro-food system. Within an agro-food framework system, the approach of "filiére" shared the same analytical objectives of the concept of agribusiness, which was developed in the United States in the mid-fifties by John H. Davis and Ray A. Golberg. In fact, the latest concept applies to that part of national economy involved in the flow of food product and services from the point of initial agricultural production until they reach the consumer. Over the past two decades, the concept of "filière" met a growing interest among Italian agricultural economists at both theoretical and applied ground. Within the literature the concept of agro-food "filière" progressively evolved from a simple analytical tool particularly appropriate to overcome the limitations of more traditional analysis carried out at sector level to a form of supply organization called to compete on the market as a business system. In such a perspective, strategies for enhancing the product and improving the performance of the industry imply an increasing attention in terms of analysis, not only in how the different firms which operate within a "filière" framework use strategic resources at their disposal, but also the possible synergies and interchange of resources and skills that take place among them. When considering the concept of "filière" as a form of supply organization it needs to be considered that over the last two decades new theoretical and conceptual approaches were developed to study the organizational forms of the supply system such as supply chain, supply network and value constellation. Differently from the concept of "filière", which considers as a starting point the product and its production processes, focusing on the upstream-downstream exchanges processes, within a supply chain approach it is the ultimate customer that activates and "pulls" processes along the supply chain. In the light of these considerations, the aim of this paper is to draw attention to the strategic business analysis methodologies that were developed by economic literature and to verify the possibility of their application to the analysis of the problems associated with the use of agro-food "filière". In particular, the discussion will be conducted with reference to the concepts of value chain and value system developed by Michael Porter (1985). The work, therefore, defines and develops, first, the concept of "filière", with reference to its application to food context. Then, it passes to analyse the major theoretical and conceptual tools that focus attention on value creating system for the customer/consumer, highlighting, in particular, the importance of issues such as the centrality of the customer/consumer and the necessity to fulfill its request. Finally, the work proceeds with a description of the value chain and value system and verifies the potentiality of these analytical tools for the sake of their application to agro-food "filière" in their competitiveness strategies and the process of producing value for the final consumer.
Keywords: "filière", agribusiness, value chain, competitive advantage, agro-food products
Jel Code: Q13, L10, L66