Corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the food industry has received increasing attention in recent years. Many scholars have paid attention to case studies and other empirical analyses in this field, but there is no systematic or scientific literature review. The purpose of this study is to quantitatively evaluate the knowledge structure, research hotspots, and development history in CSR in the food industry. After searching, screening, and commenting, 498 articles were left for citation analysis, co-citation analysis, and co-word analysis. The main findings of the research are as follows: (1) The overall development status of the research in the field. The analysis of the three fields that constitute the knowledge structure. (2) Research in this field has become a hot spot, but the research is rather scattered, and the scholars and experts do not have a special research core. (3) The keywords’ cluster results in 9 clustering tags, which are further grouped into 7 groups. The research of the scholars focuses on the food supply chain, consumer perception, and social media communication. (4) The research topics in this field focus on environmental responsibility, nutrition and health, and food safety. The research results show that future research should be more in-depth and reflect the new characteristics of the Internet, digitalization, and big data.

1. Introduction

The COVID-19 epidemic has had a serious impact on the development of the food industry [1], and it has also accelerated the consumption upgrade and digital transformation of the food industry [2]. People pay more attention to the health and safety, nutritional quality, and animal welfare of food [3, 4]. At the same time, it also pays more attention to the low-carbon sustainable development of the environment and society [5]. The COVID-19 epidemic has brought horror and suffering to the world, and food companies are helping themselves and their stakeholders through socially responsible practices to survive the crisis. Carroll [6] argued that enterprises should not only obtain economic benefits but also produce products and provide services to help social development within the scope of legal and ethical permission and proposed a pyramid model of corporate social responsibility (CSR), which includes four dimensions: economic, legal, ethical, and philanthropic. The authors of [7] proposed a triple bottom line theory, which argues that enterprises must fulfill economic responsibility, social responsibility, and environmental responsibility. CSR practices can enhance corporate reputation and build a good reputation and image [810]. By establishing ethical and sustainable supply chains [11], food companies can reduce food safety risks [12] and improve economic and environmental benefits [13, 14]. CSR in the food industry is a matter of public health and safety and affects the sustainable development of business and society [15]. To improve the level of fulfillment of social responsibility of food enterprises, protect food safety and consumer rights, improve the external reputation of food enterprises, and promote the high-quality and sustainable development of food enterprises, it is necessary to conduct a bibliometric study of social responsibility of food enterprises.

Research interest related to CSR in the food industry has been growing, but there is a lack of quantitative, scientific, and systematic literature reviews on CSR research in the food industry. The research on social responsibility in the food industry has industry particularity and epochally. With the COVID-19 epidemic, people are seeking healthier and more nutritious foods, such as organic foods [17, 18]. Societal expectations of companies have further increased, expecting leading brands to work to contain the virus [19]. Food companies (e.g., beverage and confectionery companies) have their controversial attributes because their products are rich in unhealthy ingredients (e.g., carbohydrates, fats, and sugars) and high consumption can lead to obesity or other diet-related diseases [20, 21], and food companies should take part of the social responsibility to prevent obesity [22] and and think about public health issues when doing business activities such as making new products, advertising, and communicating with customers. [23, 24]. At the same time, the food industry has a long supply chain compared to most other industries, and a typical food supply chain includes production, processing, transportation, consumption, and in-store operations [25, 26]. The specificity and complexity of the food supply chain makes it increasingly difficult to ensure food safety throughout the supply chain [27]. To improve the level of knowledge, it is highly desirable to perform a network analysis to map the scope and conceptual structure, so that prominent articles and research clusters in the field of study can be scientifically identified. Therefore, this study aims to answer the following questions. Which journals and disciplines had the most impact on corporate social responsibility in the food industry? Who are the experts in CSR of the food industry research field? How has the structure of this field developed over time? What are the topics associated with a particular line of research?

To achieve these aims, this paper provides an objective and accurate methodology to complement previous reviews of CSR in the food industry and to systematically identify future trends in this research area. First, this study covers many food CSR-related journal articles up to 2019, which may provide a comprehensive understanding of the contribution of CSR research in the food industry field and its evolution. Second, a more comprehensive grasp of current and future research directions and themes in food CSR research. Finally, it is valuable and useful not only for scholars but also for policy makers and professionals. In addition, it provides information on the most influential articles, authors, institutions, journals, and countries in the field. The rest of the paper proceeds as follows. Section 2 discusses the data sources and research methodology. Section 3 presents the results of the data analysis. Section 4 presents the conclusion and discussion.

2. Research Methods

2.1. Delimitations and the Search for Literature

Since the search strategy has a huge impact on the research, it is crucial to determine the search terms and develop a rigorous search process. Elkington [7] proposed a five-step workflow for the procedure of bibliometric literature review in management and organization. This structured method mainly includes data collection and evaluation, bibliometric analysis and visualization, and results interpretation and description. In accordance, we used a rigorous searching process, which was performed in October 2019.

First, Web of Science (WoS) is an important database widely used for bibliometric analysis [28]. Therefore, WoS published by Thomson Reuters was considered as the data source in this research, including Science Citation Index Expanded (SCIEXPANDED), Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), and Science Citation Index (A&HCI).

Next, the search string identified as keywords arming to focus on CSR practices in the food industry is listed as follows: (food or food industry) and (CSR or corporate social responsibility or social responsibility or corporate responsibility). The “topic” field including “title, abstract, and keywords” was adopted as the key searching condition.

Last, only papers written in English were included because of data manipulability. “Article” or “review” was considered as another condition due to the two types being more scientific and authoritative for research. To identify as many papers as possible, the chronological filter was not considered. Following these strict search criteria, 498 articles were returned.

2.2. Data Analysis and Rigor of the Research Process

Based on the total of 498 articles that remained for analysis, we followed two different sequential steps. First, we used Microsoft Excel 2019 to perform a descriptive analysis including the numbers of publications, distribution by countries, institutions, subject categories, and authors.

Next, the CiteSpace5.0 was adopted for bibliometric analysis. Scholars have used three methods to make sense of earlier literature: the qualitative method of narrative and structured literature reviews, the quantitative method of meta-analysis, and bibliometric analysis. Science mapping adopted bibliometric methods is widely used to map the structure and development of scientific fields and disciplines [29].

Bibliometric analysis methods such as citation analysis, co-citation analysis, bibliographical coupling, co-author analysis, and co-word analysis were commonly used in literature reviews [28, 30, 31]. Bibliometric analysis can easily handle hundreds of articles and can deeply analyze the relationships between articles, citations, co-citations, and keywords, providing comprehensive information for our research field. The visualization feature of bibliometrics makes it easier for people to see how the research field has changed over time.

3. Results and Discussion

3.1. Descriptive Analysis

Figure 1 shows the publication trend for CSR in the food industry from 1993 to October 2019. The number of published papers in this field has gradually risen over 27 years. More specifically, at the first stage (before 2003), there are only 7 published articles. After that, the number of research articles shows an upward trend of fluctuation. The figure describes the research topic on CSR in the food industry gradually attracted scholars’ consideration. The number of published articles slightly ascended from 2004 to 2009, accounting for 46 (9%). In comparison, the articles substantially increased from 2010 to 2019. Interestingly, the last ten-year period research outputs occupied 89% of the total published articles, which indicates that CSR issues in the food industry grow a hot research issue.

Based on the selection of the initial research data (498), the first paper related to this topic was published in 1993 by Loewenson in the International Journal of Health Services. who Loewenson [32] introduced the World Bank/International Monetary Fund Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) through their economic policy measures and experiences, which influenced the local communities and policymakers to pay more attention to the social responsibility of food insecurity and human health in Africa. The most cited article is published by the authors of [33] in the Harvard Business Review with a five years impact factor of 6.132, which discussed the Whole Foods Market and other enterprises’ relationship between competitive and CSR.

The top 10 journals are shown in Table 1, which accounts for 36% of all outputs. British Food Journal, Journal of Cleaner Production, and Journal of Business Ethics published 37, 30, and 29 articles, respectively. As shown in Table 2, the business category is the hottest research field with 120 published papers, followed by the management category with 87, which shows that scholars in business and management areas paid more attention and effort to this issue. At the same time, research in the environment is also a hot category discussed in CSR in the food industry.

Table 3 lists the top ten countries publishing the most articles on CSR in the food industry. According to Table 3, the top three countries with the most publications are 22.49% from the USA, 17.07% from the UK, and 13.05% from China, which occupies more than half of the total articles in this field. Apart from China, the top nine productive countries are developed countries, showing that researchers from developed countries are more concerned about CSR in the food industry than those from developing countries. Especially, India ranked 13th with 2% of the total number of articles published.

Figure 2 indicates the top 8 productive organizations accounting for 8%. The most productive organization is the Wageningen University, which had 11 published articles in this field, while other organizations contributed less than ten articles. As can be seen from Table 4, Blok, Lerro, and Zhang are the most productive authors focused on the CSR in the food industry.

3.2. Bibliometric Analysis
3.2.1. Co-Citation Analysis

Co-citation analysis was first defined by the authors of [34]. According to the different units of analysis, the co-citation analysis was divided into three types, including document co-citation analysis, author co-citation analysis, and journal co-citation analysis [3537]. Co-citation analysis uses cited references to find out their relationship and the knowledge structure. Author co-citation analysis can identify key authors and cited authors’ relationships [37]. Besides, co-citation analysis can reflect research topics, authors, and paradigms change a while. Briefly, this article aims to use co-citation analysis to find out the intellectual structure of literature on CSR in the food industry, the central and peripheral researchers, and the structure of this field developing over time.

Co-citation analysis was performed based on the 498 articles selected by the previous search strategy. A proper threshold of co-citations should be considered [31]. The study aims to find out the important cited references. Considering its simplicity and readability, the minimum number of citations for a cited reference is set 20. Therefore, we get 26610 cited references returned and 19 meet the threshold. Table 5 shows the top 10 cited references on CSR in the food industry. Maloni and Brown [38] built a comprehensive framework of supply chain CSR considering the uniqueness of the food industry. Sen and Bhattacharya [39] defined corporate social responsibility by examining the literature and socially responsible consumer behavior consisting of in-depth interviews with 44 consumers. Carroll [40] offered a conceptual model describing essential aspects of corporate social performance.

By using VOSviewer for better visualization (Figure 3), three Clusters (Clusters 1, 2, and 3) were generated. Cluster 1 had 9 nodes, Cluster 2 had 6, and Cluster 3 had 4 in results (Table 6). First, Cluster 1 reflects the content of CSR on consumers’ perception, response, and buying behavior. Cluster 2 focuses on the relationship between CSR and supply chain management, with an emphasis on the sustainable supply chain management. Cluster 3 mainly introduces the link between corporate strategy, competitive advantage, and social responsibility. Briefly, the main knowledge structure of CSR in the food industry comes from three aspects: consumer, supply chain, and corporate strategy. It can explain that more studies are conducted based on consumers, mainly on how CSR affects consumers’ consumption behavior to improve social, environmental, and performance benefits.

Then, we use journals and authors as the unit for co-citation analysis. As shown in Table 6, these cited references introduce the main intellectual structure of CSR in the food industry. The most cited journal is the Journal of Business Ethics in this field, followed by the Journal of Cleaner Production, and Academy of Management Review. Tables 7 and 8 show the top ten cited journals and authors on CSR in the food industry. This reflects the thematic relevance, authority, and scientific nature of these journal articles. The author with the most citations is Carter. Chinese scholars are also emerging in the field. Zhu, Qinghua is the 11th highest cited author by the number of citations who is from Antai College of Economics and Management, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China. He pays more attention to the research topics of sustainable development, green supply chain management, and CSR. These research topics are also hot and important in this field. It also confirms the gradual rise of Chinese scholars in this field.

3.2.2. Co-Word Analysis

Co-word analysis is a content analysis using words in the documents to establish the relationship and science map of the domain. Keywords could reflect the conciseness of the core points and themes of academic research of CSR in the food industry. Using co-word analysis by CiteSpace, the researchers can reveal research hotspots and their evolution in different periods. First, we performed a keywords analysis to construct a semantic map of the research field. Second, we used the analysis unit of keyword to implement co-word analysis and keywords cluster analysis, aiming to find out the overall situation of the research hotspot. Then, using the time zone view shows the change of the research hotspot over time. Finally, with the help of the burst word recognition function in CiteSpace software, this paper analyzes and sorts out the hot spots of burst research in various periods.

After processing the whole 2663 keywords of 498 articles by CiteSpace, a frequently used keywords’ list is summarized in Table 9. Apart from the research terms used, such as “corporate social responsibility”, “social responsibility”, “food”, “industry”, and “food industry”, the most frequently used term is “sustainability”. In addition, “green”, “environmental management”, and “sustainable development” are similar to “sustainability” appearing on the list. Research on CSR in the food industry has paid more and more attention to sustainability, which is the purpose of implementing CSR. The supply chain of the food industry is complex, fragmented, and multitiered. Therefore, there are many studies on the research of food CSR based on the perspective of a sustainable supply chain. Gold et al. [54] thought multinational enterprises conducting business operations should take poor communities into account in supply chain management to achieve sustainability goals. Based on the institutional theory and agency theory, Wilhelm et al. [55] explored the relationships between first-tier and second-tier level suppliers in the food supply chain, finding the double agency role of the first-tier supplier. Based on the resource-dependence theory, Touboulic et al. [56] studied the impact of suppliers’ rights between a large focal firm and its small suppliers on the sustainability of food supply chains’ relationships. The goal of CSR is to achieve sustainable development. The sustainable management of the food supply chain is conducive to the better fulfillment of corporate social obligations and responsibilities.

Betweenness centrality is an indicator of the importance of nodes in the network. CiteSpace uses this indicator to discover and measure the importance of literature. High betweenness centrality points usually connect two different clusters and are important nodes in the network [5760]. As shown in Table 9, there are 5 keywords with a centrality greater than or equal to 0.1: case study, governance, attitude, environmental management, and business. The research on food CSR is mainly carried out using case study methods. Previous studies have focused on the governance of corporates and the attitudes of consumers, paying more attention to the issues of environmental aspects and business aspects.

Co-word analysis can help scholars track hot research topics. The more frequent the nodes appear, the hotter the research topic is over a period of time [36]. Centrality is also a measure of the importance of nodes. Through the “Export-Network Summary Table” operation of CiteSpace software, the keywords in the top 50 for centrality and frequency are compiled as shown in Table 9. The results obtained by extracting keyword clustering are shown in Figure 4. The modularity Q is 0.471 and the mean Silhouette score is 0.510. The modularity Q of 0.471 means the network is divided into a loosely coupled cluster. The mean Silhouette score of 0.510 represents that the homogeneity of these clusters on average is not high but is not very low either [61].

According to Table 10, the Silhouette values are all greater than 0.6, which indicates that the clustering effect is good. The cluster results are significant, with nine clustering tags: supply chain, corporate sustainability, Kenya, supply chain management, food supply chain, social responsibility, advertising, agriculture, food safety, and ethical consumption. As shown in Figure 5, it is the map of the hot research studies by co-word analysis on corporate social responsibility in the food industry published in 1993–2019. Research on CSR in the food industry was in its infancy before 2006. That paper combined CSR with the food industry and proposed a framework of CSR in the food supply chain, which includes animal welfare, biotechnology, community, environment, fair trade, health and safety, labor and human rights, and procurement [38]. Since the framework was proposed in 2006, more and more scholars and research topics have emerged in this field, with the development period between 2007 and 2015. With the proposal of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, research on food CSR has entered a flourishing period. Through the analysis of keywords in different clusters, it can be concluded that the research focus of food corporate social responsibility mainly focuses on the following aspects.

First, from the perspective of theoretical framework, the triple bottom line theory, stakeholder theory, and institutional theory are the most used theories in this field. Different scholars have proposed a variety of research frameworks on food corporate social responsibility based on different perspectives, such as the dimensions of social responsibility in the food supply chain, the social responsibility framework based on stakeholders, and the social responsibility framework of catering enterprises.

Second, from the perspective of stakeholders, the study starts from the perspectives of consumers and enterprises. The consumer perspective mainly studies consumers’ choice, attitude, trust, willingness to pay, satisfaction, and loyalty under the influence of food corporate social responsibility. From the perspective of the enterprise, the research is carried out from the strategic and tactical perspectives, and the strategic focus is on sustainable development, such as environmental sustainability, supply chain sustainability, and enterprise sustainability. At the tactical level, more in-depth studies should be carried out according to different food formats, such as fast food, restaurants, and supermarkets. The research is also carried out according to the different sizes of food enterprises and different positions in the food supply chain. Most scholars have studied the social responsibility of listed food enterprises, while only a few scholars have studied small- and medium-sized enterprises as well as medium-sized suppliers. Other studies explore the social responsibility of food enterprises from different aspects of operation and management, such as supply chain, performance, innovation, logistics, business model, risk control, and other dimensions.

Third, from the perspective of the content and dimension of social responsibility of food enterprises, the research mainly focuses on environmental responsibility. At the same time, there are different levels of concern about nutrition and health, food safety, animal welfare, and fair trade.

Fourth, the research methods are mainly case studies and empirical studies. The early stage is mainly based on case studies. Finally, with the development of the Internet and social media, social responsibility communication has gradually become a research hotspot. All enterprises in the food supply chain should be legal, ethical, and transparent.

Table 10 shows 9 clusters, which can be grouped into seven groups. The first group is comprised of Clusters 0, Cluster 3 and Cluster 4, which focus on supply chain management. The second group is Cluster 1 and Cluster 5, which are mainly focused on sustainable development (CSR). The third group is Cluster 2, which reveals the region of concern of these papers, the less developed countries represented by Kenya. The fourth group is Cluster 6, focusing on the communication of CSR. The fifth group is Cluster 7, which focuses on agriculture. The sixth group is Cluster 8. Articles in this group are mainly about food safety. The seventh group is Cluster 9. The research in this group is mainly on ethical consumption.

To sum up, there are overlaps and crosstalk among keywords of different clusters, which fully shows that different clusters influence each other. One cluster is the continuation, development or theoretical basis of another cluster.

To deeply analyze the field of social responsibility in the food industry, the law of the evolution of hot spots over time is studied, and the research trend in this field is comprehensively grasped. This study used CiteSpace for timeline analysis. The time range is 1993–2019, the time slice is set to 3, the node type selects a keyword, and the Pathfinder algorithm is selected (Figure 5). The size of the circle indicates the frequency of keywords, and the larger the circle, the higher the frequency. The lines represent co-occurrence relationship connections.

As can be seen from Figure 5, research in the field of food corporate social responsibility has appeared before 2005. However, the research results are poor and still in the embryonic stage, and no obvious rings have been formed. In 2006, the first and largest annual ring appeared. Maloni and Brown [38] proposed dimensions of CSR in the food supply chain for the first time, which laid a foundation for future studies in the field of social responsibility in the food supply chain. Therefore, more scholars study the dimensions, themes, practices, governance, and strategies of food CSR from the perspective of supply chain management and how food CSR influences consumers’ attitudes, intentions, and behaviors.

4. Discussions

This study answered four questions: R1: Which journals and disciplines have had the most impact on corporate social responsibility in the food industry?. R2 : Who are the experts in CSR of food industry research field?. R3: How has the structure of this field developed over time?. R4: What are the topics associated with a particular line of research? By answering the questions above, this study adds to the growth of research in the area of corporate social responsibility in the food industry.

4.1. Identification of General Trends and Key Scholars of CSR Research in the Food Industry

The results in the field of food CSR research in the last decade account for nearly 90% of the total number of published results. Although the research field is developing and growing, it is still not mature enough compared with the CSR research field [62]. In terms of the number of food CSR research publications, the top three journals are British Food Journal, Journal of Cleaner Production, and Journal of Business Ethics. The top 3 publication categories are business, management, and environmental sciences.

4.2. Intellectual Structure of CSR Research in the Food Industry

The knowledge structure analysis provides unique insights into the knowledge components of social responsibility in food companies. The top 10 cited literature in food CSR research includes classic literature on CSR theories and concepts from [38, 40, 43]. Structural equation modeling dominates the empirical research related to CSR in food companies [45].

The co-citation analysis of references reflects that the knowledge structure of CSR research in the food industry comes from three areas: consumers and food CSR, supply chain and food CSR, and corporate strategy and food CSR. The co-word analysis was used to identify hot topics in this research area. After clustering and grouping the keywords, we generated seven different clusters to help researchers understand the knowledge structure of the field.

Sustainable development has been listed as an important issue globally. In 2016, Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development put the right healthy lifestyle, sustainable development of water and sanitation, sustainable consumption and production, sustainable resources, and ecological sustainability to global importance issue. Corporate sustainable development is not only in the social and the environment but also in the economy. Performance, as the third item on the list, is the foundation of the survival and development of the company. Many scholars have studied the relationship between performance and CSR, such as environmental performance [44, 6365], cost performance [44, 66, 67], financial performance [22, 51, 68, 69], social performance [12, 53, 70, 71], and green performance [7274].

CSR not only improves performance but also has positive effects on consumer attitudes and behaviors. “Attitude”, “consumer”, “consumption”, “willingness to pay”, and “behavior” also have higher frequencies, which shows the importance of customers in CSR in the food industry. CSR has a significant impact on consumers’ perceived value, and the perceived value affects consumer behavior and willingness to pay [75]. As organic food is a credit commodity, corporate social responsibility will affect the purchase intention of organic food [7579]. CSR is an important factor to influence consumer trust, brand loyalty, and brand image of organic and green foods [8082]. There are several types of research on attitudes of CSR in the food industry: consumer attitudes toward organic or green food [77, 83], consumer attitudes toward CSR practices [80, 84, 85], consumer attitudes toward CSR communication or publicity [22, 8688], consumer attitudes toward participating in social responsibility [8991], and employees attitude toward CSR [9294], corporate attitude toward social activities [82, 95, 96], and supplier attitude toward CSR [42, 97, 98].

In recent years, nutrition and health have also become the focus of research on CSR in the food industry. With economic development, obesity has become a mainstream health problem in society [99]. Schröder and McEachern [100] investigated the impact of fast food CSR practices on UK young consumers and found that brand value, nutrition value, ethical value, and food quality were the main reasons affecting consumers, purchasing behavior. Colls and Evans [101] explored the “healthy” responsibility relationship between supermarkets, parents, and children on a children’s healthy diet. Herrick [102] explored the importance of health in CSR and proposed that companies should shoulder a part of the social responsibility for preventing obesity. Lee et al. [103] explored consumer reactions to blogs related to health and obesity posted by food companies. They also considered the degree of fit between corporate social responsibility initiatives and company products or promotional content. Lee et al. [104] found that the restaurants, initiatively provided health and nutrition information and created healthy dining environments that could attract more customers, which made customers feel that the restaurants were socially responsible.

CSR practices have become a means for companies to gain a competitive advantage [33, 95, 105, 106]. “Management”, “strategy”, and “supply chain management” appeared more frequently. At the same time, it proved the importance of CSR in business management and corporate strategy formulation. The fulfillment of social responsibility has an important role for enterprises. CSR can influence investors’ trading behavior [107109], consumers’ brand evaluation [57, 110], and mitigate the impact of the food-injury crises on stakeholders [5760].

4.3. Evolution of CSR Research in the Food Industry

Analysis of the overall trend of article publication and high-frequency keyword time zones shows that food CSR research has gone through three stages: the nascent period (1993–2006), the development period (2007–2015), and the boom period (2016-present). At the early stage of the study, the study was mainly focused on the food supply chain from the macro level, studying the performance management of the food supply chain, governance and sustainable strategy, stakeholder behavior from the perspective of the supply chain, and social responsibility for the less developed countries in Africa. Mainly due to the globalization of the economy and trade, more and more enterprises moved their factories to less developed countries, so scholars began to pay attention to the social responsibility of less developed countries.

Since 2009, the focus of food CSR research has shifted from supply chain responsibility to consumer responsibility. Supply chain responsibility is still a hot topic. More and more research has been conducted on consumers. Social responsibility, advertising, and food safety have placed more emphasis on the responsibility for consumption, such as consumer obesity, public health, green consumption, quality and safety, as well as consumers’ motivation, perception, preference, and behavior.

Since 2012, due to the rapid development of the Internet and the popularity of mobile communication devices, consumers’ awareness of corporate social responsibility has been constantly improved, and social responsibilities communication has become a new focus. Consumers pay more attention to the corporate values and development strategies, and the legitimacy, transparency, and morality of corporate social media communication.

In 2016, with the proposal of the 2030 sustainable development strategy, the focus of the research is more inclined to sustainability, such as sustainable enterprise development, environmental sustainability, sustainable supply chain, sustainable consumption, and sustainable procurement. At the same time, with the development of society and the continuous improvement of consumers’ health consciousness, the requirements for enterprise operation and management innovation are constantly increasing, to improve the sustainable development ability of enterprises from the perspectives of enterprise capacity, logistics support, innovative research and development, and risk management. Organic food consumption, label certification, social media communication, and consumer pro-environmental behavior have also become new research hotspots in this period.

5. Conclusions, Limitation, and Future Direction

5.1. Conclusions

The social responsibility of food enterprises has developed into a hot research field, which has received the common attention of academia and practice. In this study, 498 articles were returned, and a literature measurement analysis was conducted. It summarizes the total number and trend of papers published in this field, the most published journals, countries, institutions, and scholars, as well as the knowledge structure, hot topics, and research development trends in the research field.

Research on corporate social responsibility in the food industry has gradually become a hotspot in the academic field. Data show that the number of research publications has accounted for 89% in the past decade. The top 10 most publication journals account for 36% of all outputs. The top three countries publishing the most articles on CSR in the food industry are the USA, UK, and China, which account for more than half of the total articles in this field. The top eight productive organizations account for 8% and the top ten productive authors account for 7%, which means that research in this area is relatively fragmented. Each researcher focuses on different research points, the research topics vary widely, and there are no core organizations or authors for the time being. More proof of how unique and complicated the food industry is, as well as how diverse and different CSR research in the food industry is.

The main intellectual structure of CSR in the food industry comes from three aspects: consumer behavior, supply chain, and corporate strategy. The most cited journal is the Journal of Business Ethics in this field, followed by the Journal of Cleaner Production, and the Academy of Management Review. The author with the most citations is Carter. Zhu, Qinghua is the 11th highest cited author who is Chinese and pays more attention to the research topics of sustainable development, green supply chain management, and CSR. It also confirms the gradual rise of Chinese scholars in this field.

CSR in the food industry pays more and more attention to sustainability. Sustainable development is the purpose of implementing CSR. The research on food CSR is mainly carried out using case study methods. Previous studies have focused on the governance of corporations and the attitudes of consumers, paying more attention to the issues of environmental and business aspects. The cluster results are significant, with nine clustering tags: supply chain, corporate sustainability, Kenya, supply chain management, food supply chain, social responsibility, advertising, agriculture, food safety, and ethical consumption. The 9 clusters are grouped into seven groups.

5.2. Limitations and Future Direction

The innovative value of this study lies in that it analyzes the general trend of the research on social responsibility of food enterprises with the method of literature measurement and summarizes and analyzes the knowledge structure, hot topics, and development trend of the research. The weakness of this study lies in the fact that only Web of Science is selected for database selection. Although it is authoritative and has a large amount of data, there is still data not included. Therefore, multiple databases should be selected for cross-retrieval as much as possible.

To sum up, there are several directions worth further study in the future. First, with the in-depth development of digitalization and intelligence, CSR communication among food enterprises has become more and more important. Therefore, how to use social media to carry out efficient CSR communication will become the focus of attention for enterprises. Second, due to the optimization and upgrading of the food supply chain and the change in consumption scenarios, the connotation and value of social responsibility of food enterprises have changed. It is worth discussing how enterprises should cope with these challenges from both strategic and tactical perspectives. Third, consumers have different preferences, perceptions, and behavioral intentions for the CSR of food enterprises of different sizes, different business forms, and different supply chain locations, so the relationship between them and the mechanism of action needs to be further analyzed. Fourth, with the development of the economy and society, new features, new problems, and new content have emerged in the research on the CSR governance of food enterprises. Most of the previous research focuses on qualitative research. More quantitative studies can be added in the future to help businesses solve CSR governance problems better.

Data Availability

The data used to support the findings of this study are included within the article.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


This work was supported by the Chinese National Funding of Social Sciences (Grant no. 18AGL010).