The local food trend seems to be cementing its popularity, according to a recent consumer survey by the Hartman Group and the Produce Marketing Association. When asked to choose between local and organic, 75% of respondents said that it's important to buy local, vs. 19% who said organic.
“Locally grown is probably the hottest trend in produce right now,” said Julia Stewart, spokeswoman for PMA, Newark, Del. “It has eclipsed organics.
“Their primary motivation for buying local is freshness. Second motivation is to support the local economy, not just the local farmer, but the local economy — they see it as more of a cohesive picture.”
Highlighting the freshness of produce is important, agreed Maria Brous, spokeswoman for Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla.
“The most effective displays present fresh product, displayed with an appearance of abundance,” Brous said.
Also, many shoppers who prefer locally grown produce are interested in knowing the story behind their food. Part of the reason farmers' markets have become popular is because they give customers an opportunity to meet growers directly, and to learn where the produce is coming from.
Retailers should keep in mind that this desire for a story applies not only to local produce, but produce from all suppliers. And, according to the PMA survey, consumers currently have a huge range of definitions for “local” food, Stewart pointed out.
“Forty-one percent said within 100 miles, 33% said within my state, 10% said within my region of the country, 5% within the U.S.,” Stewart explained.
“Bryan [Silbermann, PMA president] feels very passionately that what is behind the skyrocketing interest in locally grown is the consumer's interest in reestablishing a connection with the people who provide their food. He's said, ‘They're looking for a face to their food, the story behind their sustenance,’ and that presents an opportunity for everybody in our industry.”