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Innovation patterns in the food and food retail industries have been analyzed and compared with the more general patterns found in the manufacturing and wholesale retail sectors. We find that the food industry, despite its relevance within manufacturing, is still characterized by a lower propensity to innovate. This fact is particularly relevant if one considers that technological innovation may have significant effects on firmsŐ performance and thus it may affect their future growth perspectives. This is crucial in the current Italian economic framework, which is characterized by a general decrease in internal demand and by a sharp decrease in familiesŐ real disposable income. In this context, food industry firms may be able to expand their production by creating new opportunities with new and better goods, and/or by increasing their export capacity. We suggest that technological and non-technological patterns of innovation should be considered simultaneously, as the former typically implies the acquisition of internal (to the firm) capabilities brought about by other activities aimed at improving the internal organization, or at gaining a better understanding of market evolution.