Got local?

Discussion
Sep 12, 2014

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.

More profit

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?

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11 Comments on "Got local?"


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Richard J. George, Ph.D.
Guest
7 years 8 months ago

Absolutely! Shoppers associate local products with adjectives like fresh, sustainable, natural, organic, farmers (most admired profession) and community. Majority.

Mohamed Amer
Guest
Mohamed Amer
7 years 8 months ago

I came across these signs hanging from the ceiling in each of the aisles at our Whole Foods store. They talked up three numbers for each of the aisles: the number of non-GMO items, the EDLP items (the 365 private label), and the local items. Of the three, the most distinct numbers were those for the local items with larger font and contrast. Add stories that put a face to the produce, or dairy products to connect with your customers!

Local is important to shoppers and, as Mr. Harris stated, you not only support local business but offer fresher products while boosting profits and connecting your customers to their community. It’s a clear win-win-win situation!

Kelly Tackett
Guest
7 years 8 months ago

Grocers are absolutely missing an opportunity to support local products for all the reasons cited by the author above. I tend to see regional players like H-E-B or Bashas’ and natural/organic players like Sprouts doing the best job of highlighting local goods. But even Kroger and Walmart have ramped up displays and signage pointing out local. As with many fads, the staying power will be determined by the retailers’ ability to educate consumers about the benefits of buying local (increased freshness, lower carbon footprint, etc.).

Ian Percy
Guest
7 years 8 months ago
“Buy Local” is a very successful movement here in AZ. It just makes sense to paint local products in bright colors and retailers are foolish not to do so. I’d like to see it taken further by attaching pictures of the farm and farmer the produce comes from, or telling a story of the values that egg producers holds immutable. The more of a human connection we can make, and thus a sense of community, the greater the likelihood of loyalty, the tolerance for a slightly higher price point and so on. Most of our society is in desperate need of meaningful connections and “Local First” and other similar programs are a great start in meeting that need. At a large hospital client of mine years ago there was a sandwich bar in the cafeteria. It wasn’t getting much business. The main sandwich maker was a woman named Ann, and immediately upon the administration putting up a sign over the sandwich bar that said “Ann’s Sandwiches” the lineups started to form. We all want to… Read more »
Herb Sorensen, Ph.D.
Guest
7 years 8 months ago

It is a large number of shoppers, and “local” should be used to “spice” the store—single selections here and there. Not as extensive, but managed more like private label. Accept that some retailers have gone WAY overboard on private label. Keep these things as “spice” and do not overwhelm the flavor of your delicious offering!

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
7 years 8 months ago

Buying local is one of the smartest moves a grocer will make. Nothing is better advertising than a local merchant selling local products.

Chris Petersen, PhD
Guest
7 years 8 months ago

Buying Local all starts with being able to find it. As Harris points out in the article, consumers need to be able to quickly see and identify the local produce in the store.

Richard George points out that many consumers associate “local” with “fresh,” “organic” and “healthy.” Grocers must do more than label the products. They must help consumers understand the benefits, especially if local commands a higher price than national brands.

It perhaps goes without saying, but the local products must be of high quality. Nothing destroys affinity for local products more than poor quality and lack of consistency.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
7 years 8 months ago

As the article stated, local doesn’t necessarily mean, “smaller” companies. I am all for supporting the thousands of local producers and manufacturers. Small business is the backbone of our economy. Whenever you can legitimately highlight the local flavor of your assortment, make it happen. However remember, a local division of a multinational company also employs local people and drives capital into the local economy.

George-Marie Glover
Guest
George-Marie Glover
7 years 8 months ago

A lot of produce is grown in Washington state. Ellensberg is known for its lamb. We have many dairy producers. There are many outstanding wineries and micro-breweries throughout the state.

All of these are considered local products and promoted as such within Washington state. I’ve found that farmers markets are populated by the same producer/distributors you find in the stores.

However, local does not mean small or family farm. Many of our “local” items are produced by large companies that sell nationally and internationally. That doesn’t necessarily have a reflection on the quality, but branding something local isn’t always about supporting nearby family farms, dairies, distillers or breweries. The big guys get in on the act as well.

It makes more of a difference to me if local is a nearby family farm than food from a corporate conglomerate that operates within my state. Unfortunately there is rarely much of a distinction made through promotions.

Naomi K. Shapiro
Guest
Naomi K. Shapiro
7 years 8 months ago

If grocers aren’t featuring and highlighting local products, they’re missing a huge opportunity to create personalization, warmth, confidence and meaning, not to mention freshness and quality — AND support of local businesses. In Madison, of course we have the weekly farmer’s market, many products of which are featured in local stores — and if a person finds it in a local store, they often go to farmer’s market. These products get a lot of exposure (in the news and in social communications). It’s a magnificent symbiotic relationship.

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
7 years 8 months ago

Definitely, grocers who offer locally produced foods are at an advantage. Local produce, meats dairy, bakery are all valued more by shoppers. Local carries a big halo of goodness – fresher, supporting the community , more natural . Locally produced resonates with a majority or shoppers, connecting a community, and is valuable for grocers to merchandise.

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