Food trends come and go, but one seems to be in it for the long haul: local products. A survey from the National Restaurant Association last year found that local food trends are dominating the market, with three of the top five trends related to local products. This isn’t a new development; however, the trend has been steadily growing for quite some time and 75 percent of Americans say eating local foods is the norm. The sustainability of the trend is evident through the number of farmer’s markets popping up in the last twenty years: from 1992 to 2014, the number has risen 350 percent, from 1.755 to 8.144. Clearly the demand for local products is growing, but is it worth carrying these products in your store? Recent research says, “YES,” and there are a multitude of reasons to carry and emphasize more locally resourced products in your stores.
If you carry it, they will buy it.
Consumers will buy local products if you put them on the shelves. From 1992 to 2008, direct-to-consumer food sales increased from $404 million to $1.2 billion, growing at twice the rate as total agricultural sales. The majority of shoppers prioritize locally grown products over other trends in food, like organic products, as 52 percent say buying locally grown produce is more important to them. Cost will not be an issue for customers when it comes to locally grown products either, given that they will dig deeper into their pockets to buy food with “less food-miles on it.” Consumers are desperate for their stores to carry more locally grown/packaged products as well. In fact, it’s one of the most recommended changes from them, closely behind lowering prices.
Another reason to emphasize your local selection is for the simple fact that the product markets itself. There is no need to explain at great length the benefits of locally grown foods, as customers already have the pros ingrained in them. Shoppers believe local foods have more freshness, flavor, ripeness and a longer shelf life than foods with “more miles” on them, so they are already positioned as a healthier option. They also trust local farmers and manufacturers more than mass distributors, and are therefore willing to pay a little extra in order to help the local economy. In addition to all of this, consumers see buying local foods as a way to decrease their carbon footprint, as well as the stores’. The positives of purchasing local products are an easy pitch to make. It encourages eating better and healthier products, confirms to the customer they are buying from trustworthy and local businesses, encourages environmentally-conscious decisions, and helps bolster the local economy. The benefits of both selling and consuming locally made products are obvious, and carrying more of them should be a no-brainer.