Seattle — Produce was the key department featured in Top Food & Drug's spotlight on local growers and producers this past month. With a strong supporting cast, including all the other perishable departments, this educational program gave customers a sense of the depth of offerings the chain brings them that originate in the states of Washington and Oregon.
In the produce department, items on the racks and on display in the center of the department are called out with special “NW Product” point-of-sale tags that identify the products as locally grown. Tying Top Food & Drug to the program, the logo — reproduced in a brochure and on other printed materials — reads “We Are a Northwest Company Supporting Northwest Companies.”
In addition, select bountiful displays offer customers 5- by 7-inch take-home fliers printed on glossy paper that tell the story of the particular farm, written as if from the farmer to the customer. In one store SN visited, peaches were a featured item. The flier described how their hand-picking of the peach crop — directly from the trees into boxes — brings a more mature and a more tasty peach to the customer than the conventional system of bulk picking. The flier also gives handling tips, suggesting that shoppers store peaches at room temperature, only refrigerating them if holding the fruit for a short time. Finally, the flier's copy thanks the customer and gives the name, address and phone number of the grower.
Top Food & Drug further elevates its case with a large brochure listing the benefits of buying local. This list includes items as simple as “It's fresh” to more political and complex reasons such as “Strengthens rural economies,” “Preserves our farm heritage,” “Reduces air and water pollution” and “Creates and maintains employment.”
The brochure also highlights other information about the growers, including additional certifications such as the Northwest regional “Farmer's Own” label, and whether certain selections were organically raised. In addition, the location of the producer's farm is indicated on a map of Washington and Oregon.
The brochure lists regional statistics and other information about the two states. For example, it's drawn to the reader's attention that Washington ranks first in the nation in the production of apples, hops, pears and spearmint oil, while the list for Oregon includes hazelnuts, Christmas trees and blackberries.
Following the monthlong promotion, chalk-board signage now indicates not only country of origin information but whether the item is from Washington or Oregon.
Other departments play a role in the spotlight on Northwest growers and producers as well. Across the perishables departments, this emphasis is particularly strong in the store's dairy, floral, food-service, garden, meat and seafood departments.
Categories in Center Store also receive the “NW Product” distinction, such as wine, beer, cookies, crackers and snacks, beverages, coffee and tea, jams, baked goods, frozens, spices, candy and sauces.
Locally grown foods have enjoyed a boom in popularity during the past few years, and independents in the Pacific Northwest seem particularly in tune with the trend. Late this summer, Shoreline, Wash.-based Central Market hosted a meet-and-greet with local producers that drew 2,000 shoppers, and Vancouver-based Capers conducted an extensive survey to learn what motivates shoppers to buy local.