Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer magazine. A long-time Harris Teeter executive, Mr. Harris is a former chairman of the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association and a member of the Refrigerated Foods Hall of Fame.
When I visit stores, I see a lot of local products that should have a "Buy Local" sign or shelf talker, but don’t. This is especially true for eggs; many retailers buy eggs from local farmers.
If you’re going to buy local brands, sign them and be proud of them. It will build consumer traffic, loyalty and profits.
You can establish some parameters for what’s "local" or "regional," which also can be signed. Maybe it’s local if it’s from the same state or within 250 miles, or regional if it’s from within an adjoining state or within 500 miles.
Walk your section
Every category manager should walk their section wherever they are, and see what’s packed near their town or region. A manufacturer may have its headquarters far away, but a plant nearby.
And you’ve got to be careful about just where products come from. For instance, your local dairy may not have enough organic milk to supply local needs and may import its organic milk from Texas. Labeling it as "packed locally" may have a benefit, but don’t call it local.
Local products are very important to your shoppers. Just try discontinuing one and see what happens. It won’t be pleasant. And if you have stores in towns with dairies, you better carry their milk. The same goes for local eggs, local bakeries and so on.
Shelf labels and signage are one thing, but talking up your local products is even better. Have pictures of the farmers or small manufacturers, stress how close they are to your stores and how that makes the products fresher. Talk about supporting local businesses and jobs.
Finally, you can get more profit by using the smaller brands. They sell well in markets where shoppers are loyal to them. And they also give you more leverage against your top vendors. If you have small brands, the big brands may spend more with you because they don’t want to give up a piece of the pie.
Of course, once you become known for having local products, you can expect visits from local people whose families told them that their cheese or soup is so good it should be sold in stores.
Are grocers missing opportunities to support local products? Do “buy local” messages resonate with a minority or majority of shoppers?