In produce, ‘locale’ means more to consumers than ‘local’

Articles
May 29, 2009

In produce, ‘locale’ means more to consumers than ‘local’

In the rush by Americans to develop safe and Earth-friendly resources for food, the term ‘local’ certainly has cachet. But it’s unrealistic to think that every person in the United States could live within100 miles of the acreage where their produce grows. The attempt by Lay’s to market its potato chips as local food puts some emotional chips on the table by featuring five farmers who supply the leading brand in the category. The volume they provide is like a grain of salt among countless bags—a tiny taste of the 2 billion pounds of potatoes the company processes each year. Yet Lay’s mines the concept of locavores because they believe “consumers care more than ever about where their food comes from,” read a recent New York Times account. This belief is common, to the extent that consumers prefer domestic over imported, and they want the freshest possible food that is potentially traceable. To that end, Hunt’s promotes that it uses tomatoes grown only within 120 miles of its processing facility in Oakland, CA, so the fruits can stay on the vine longer, taste better and have a more robust nutrient profile (full disclosure: we are working with Hunt's to tell consumers about the benefits in their PR efforts). They just happen to sold as canned, but they’re quite fresh. That’s an example of locale, which SupermarketGuru.com believes is a more sustainable reference to the geographic growth spot of food. Think of campaigns that have successfully imprinted their food origins, such as orange juice from Florida, and blueberries from western Michigan.

In the rush by Americans to develop safe and Earth-friendly resources for food, the term ‘local’ certainly has cachet. But it’s unrealistic to think that every person in the United States could live within100 miles of the acreage where their produce grows.

The attempt by Lay’s to market its potato chips as local food puts some emotional chips on the table by featuring five farmers who supply the leading brand in the category. The volume they provide is like a grain of salt among countless bags—a tiny taste of the 2 billion pounds of potatoes the company processes each year. Yet Lay’s mines the concept of locavores because they believe “consumers care more than ever about where their food comes from,” read a recent New York Times account.

This belief is common, to the extent that consumers prefer domestic over imported, and they want the freshest possible food that is potentially traceable.

To that end, Hunt’s promotes that it uses tomatoes grown only within 120 miles of its processing facility in Oakland, CA, so the fruits can stay on the vine longer, taste better and have a more robust nutrient profile (full disclosure: we are working with Hunt's to tell consumers about the benefits in their PR efforts).They just happen to sold as canned, but they’re quite fresh. That’s an example of locale, which SupermarketGuru.com believes is a more sustainable reference to the geographic growth spot of food. Think of campaigns that have successfully imprinted their food origins, such as orange juice from Florida, and blueberries from western Michigan. 

We like the idea of identifying where food comes from, especially given the gaps in our nation’s food-safety system and the proactive nature of consumers to find trusted food sources. We think identification breeds confidence, and we believe that locale labels could possibly inspire further consumption of healthful foods if there is no fear of what the foods might harbor.

For fans of farmers’ markets, or urban farmers in Detroit, New York or Los Angeles, we concede that local might still rule—and they’ll feed a good number of people. But for the majority of American consumers, who rely instead on the mainstream produce supply chains that culminate in supermarkets, the concept of locale is more enduring, more sustainable, and possibly more inspiring of a healthful diet. Foods from certain regions, much like wines, tend to earn the reputations they deserve.