Has the shine come off the go local movement?

Discussion
Dec 09, 2015

A new Harris Poll finds that Americans are split 50/50 on whether it is important to them to purchase locally made items when they go shopping at the grocery store.

According to the online survey of 2,225 adults in the U.S., other factors including sugar content (69 percent), fat (66 percent), sodium (64 percent) calories (64 percent) and antibiotic/hormone free (53 percent) were more important in purchasing decisions than local.

There are some grocery categories where buying local is more important in consumers’ purchasing decisions. Produce is the clear number one: 67 percent say locally grown is an important factor. Dairy (56 percent), bakery (55 percent) and meat (52 percent) are above the average for all of grocery.

Buying local is much less important when it comes to deli (43 percent), seafood (39 percent) and frozen foods (26 percent).

"While consumers appear to care more about purchasing locally grown fresh food compared to non-fresh food, this may be a result of the larger assortment of local options available in the fresh departments," said Sherry Frey, senior vice president with The Nielsen Perishables Group.

Kroger produce shopper

Image: Kroger

Life-stage plays a role in consumer attitudes about locally made goods. Adults with kids in the home are more likely in every category to say that buying local is more important than singles. Millennials are more likely than Boomers to factor where a product comes from when making purchasing decisions in meat, deli and frozen food.

There are a number of reasons why some find buying local important. Sixty-nine percent say it is good for the local economy, 68 percent say the products are fresher, and 63 percent say it supports local businesses. Thirty-nine percent like to buy local because it helps them understand where their food is coming from, while 37 percent think it just tastes better.

Do you think it will be more or less important for grocery stores to sell local goods in the years to come? Would grocers be better off simply focusing on local for fresh categories or do you think there are opportunities in others, as well?

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Braintrust
""Local" is not THE driving motivator. In my mind it’s a "By the way ...." If the customer loves the product, be it lettuce or fine art — for all the reasons we love certain products — and then, by the way, discovers it is locally sourced, a transition is made."
"Maybe I am out of step. I would have guessed that between 10 percent and 20 percent think it is important. My wife, a dietitian in private practice, says the numbers are even less than that. If it is 50/50, the luster isn’t coming of, it is sky rocketing."

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12 Comments on "Has the shine come off the go local movement?"


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Ian Percy
Guest
6 years 5 months ago
As the article clearly spells out, “local” is not THE driving motivator. In my mind it’s a “By the way … ” If the customer loves the product, be it lettuce or fine art — for all the reasons we love certain products — and then, by the way, discovers it is locally sourced, a transition is made. Local does become a motivator and we’ll spend energy and time looking for that local source. But the product has to stand on its own credibility first. I’m sure it’s just too costly and too much work, but I often wonder why, if we’re going to to do the “local” thing, we don’t define specifically what local means. Is that five miles or 500 miles? If I saw a picture of Farmer Ben and his crew out in the lettuce field my inclination to buy his lettuce would increase significantly. Heck with current technology we could have a live-feed (double entendre intended) right from farm to store. It would be like taking the customer to the farm as well… Read more »
Richard J. George, Ph.D.
Guest
6 years 5 months ago

Despite the poll findings I believe that there is still an opportunity for grocery stores to positively differentiate themselves by offering locally-produced products for sale. The difficulty has been in determining what customers perceive as local. The Harris findings confirm that most customers associate local with products sourced by farmers: produce, dairy and meat. Farmers are the number one most respected profession and local farm products in stores reinforces this perception. Similarly, we all can remember the local bakery in our town and locally-sourced bake goods are also high on the list.

For the other categories — deli, seafood and frozen food, the challenge is to communicate the local connection, romanticizing that these products came from the neighboring area and the benefits attached to the same.

Naomi K. Shapiro
Guest
Naomi K. Shapiro
6 years 5 months ago

As the article states, quality and freshness and other factors are the important considerations — and should be — but that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be local to have these characteristics, does it?

Buying local to support the local economy is a major motivation, but what’s the definition of “non-local?” So are local products necessarily fresher? Do they taste better or are they better quality than “non-local?”

Gene Detroyer
Guest
6 years 5 months ago

Maybe I am out of step. I would have guessed that between 10 percent and 20 percent think it is important. My wife, a dietitian in private practice, says the numbers are even less than that.

If it is 50/50, the luster isn’t coming of, it is sky rocketing. The retailers better be prepared for that.

Tony Orlando
Guest
6 years 5 months ago

To me it is important only if the local product is of high quality, and in my case at the right price. In my town, paying a lot more for something local is difficult to do as our area is very poor. We do carry local apples, candy, spaghetti sauce and of course our own local-made deli items, and they do well. We also have a local-roasted bean coffee, which is made five miles away, and it takes a while to sell six bags since it is expensive. Know your customer and work your store to match their needs, which is what all of us need to do in our own stores.

Our best item is homegrown sweet corn and, yes, we discount it to match all the stands we have in our area, but it is a draw every summer. I look for quality plus value in what our store tries to bring in, and other stores have a very different way of doing their thing.

Tina Lahti
Guest
Tina Lahti
6 years 5 months ago

Local matters more for high value/high engagement categories, produce, dairy, bakery, meat. I believe it also matters more to shoppers who spend more money. Grocers who ignore this movement may find themselves competing with Walmart for price-focused consumers over cereal and canned soup.

James Tenser
Guest
6 years 5 months ago

I doubt many folks are eager to pay a premium for middling-quality local-made products, even if it helps the local economy. But seasonal local produce can be a delight, and a positive differentiator for the retailer. Shorter shipping distances should help offset higher producer prices in the best case scenarios. I’d counsel any supermarket operator to maintain a local products program at a level that is tuned to shopper response. This is more of a trip driver than a margin builder, however.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
6 years 5 months ago

I think “local” is a nice-to-have, but not a need-to-have these days. That statement can vary a bit from region to region. Urban areas typically have less of an impact than suburban/rural areas do. I don’t think “local” should be limited to fresh foods. Where cost-effective, I believe retailers can leverage goodwill by highlighting the local sourcing to shoppers.

Roger Saunders
Guest
6 years 5 months ago

Grocery stores and restaurateurs have historically been the best of entrepreneurs/Intrapreneurs. Perhaps it is because they have first hand interfacing with their customers. That positions them to adjust their plan-o-gram, marketing, and operations to meet the needs of those customers.

Grocers will find that some locations will do better with greater fresh assortment, or need for more shelf space for organic, or a stronger bakery section, more seafood, etc. They are typically serving a diverse segment of the population in their various stores.

Those various touch points will mean local goods may have a place in their stores in a much wider category than just fresh items.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Guest
Patricia Vekich Waldron
6 years 5 months ago

Local is just one factor and in many cases, not the driver. Here in San Diego we have great bounty of fresh fruit, vegetables, seafood and meat. Consumers that patronize farmers markets or other specialty fresh markets are looking for high-quality, healthful products, so in this case local is a criteria. In a grocery store other factors, like availability and price, are equally or more important.

Gordon Arnold
Guest
6 years 5 months ago

We exist in the middle of a lousy retail economy. This has been going on for about a decade and there is no end in sight. That said, sales are all about what the customer wants and is willing to pay for. We should be willing to consider slow turn inventory as a plus reason for shopping in our stores and charge accordingly. This will require a closer awareness of what is needed to allow one stop shopping to take place in our stores. The present day shelf stocking, planning and practice is using turn ahead of and in most cases without consideration for relevance and opportunity. Is this situation allowed to exist because we don’t know how to fix it or because we don’t see the benefit? In either case should this issue persist with the need to increase market share?

Matt Talbot
Guest
6 years 5 months ago

I think it is hard to make blanket statements about the importance of local goods at the grocery store. In some coastal locations, local seafood is probably very important for consumers. However, local seafood might be an oxymoron in a landlocked location. Regardless, I think buying local has its merits for several consumers in various locales. I live in Colorado and many local grocery CPGs feature a logo indicating they come from in-state. More often than not, I choose to support those local brand over the competition.

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Braintrust
""Local" is not THE driving motivator. In my mind it’s a "By the way ...." If the customer loves the product, be it lettuce or fine art — for all the reasons we love certain products — and then, by the way, discovers it is locally sourced, a transition is made."
"Maybe I am out of step. I would have guessed that between 10 percent and 20 percent think it is important. My wife, a dietitian in private practice, says the numbers are even less than that. If it is 50/50, the luster isn’t coming of, it is sky rocketing."

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