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Another Look at Local

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In our November SN Whole Health cover story, we reported on the growing demand for locally sourced products, and supermarkets’ efforts to meet that demand. Fast-forward a couple months, and the trend is as hot as ever. According to a recent study from The Hartman Group, 73% of consumers are buying products they see as locally made or produced.

prideofny.jpgRetailers like Price Chopper get the picture. This week the Schenectady, N.Y.-based chain announced it would start offering more local products throughout the store. Ukrop’s also gets it. Each year the Richmond, Va.-based chain partners with local groups like Appalachian Sustainable Development to provide fresh regional produce.

Supermarkets aren’t the only ones taking advantage. Chipotle is now serving pork from Polyface Farm (made famous by Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma) at its Charlottesville, Va. location. And food service operators like Sodexo and Bon Appetite are ramping up their local sourcing efforts at hospitals, college campuses and other places.

So how much bigger can this thing get? Well, before looking to the next horizon, retailers should first focus on marketing and sourcing the local offerings they already have.

Sourcing local products efficiently requires some creative thinking, since it runs counterintuitive to the centralized model that most supermarket supply chains adhere to. Smart companies will go out of their way to streamline the process and help give area farmers a hand.

There’s also the question of how to position these items once they reach the store. Supermarkets are currently the most shopped channel for the category, according to the Hartman study, claiming 62% of shoppers who buy local goods. That number could be higher, however, especially if more retailers take time to connect their customers with the people and stories behind the local products they supply.

“There’s an emotional connection that consumers make with local,” said Laurie Demeritt, president of the The Hartman Group. “They really want to connect with that narrative behind the product.”

An outdoor event, such as a farmer’s market or a meet-and-greet, is a perfect way to accomplish this. With warm weather just around the corner, now’s the time to get cracking.

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