The Beginning of the End of ‘Local?’

August 13, 2010

For ‘local’ to hold its sway with consumers, it has to be authentic.

For ‘local’ to hold its sway with consumers, it has to be authentic. Retailers should establish verification processes because people who pay more for the freshness and nutritious appeals of ‘local’ are often close enough to be able to check themselves.

Once they smell a rat, they’ll run - and they could well punish the store for not caring enough to confirm.

In our view at The Lempert Report, it is everyone’s job to keep the pristine appeals of ‘local’ from being muddied. Remember how sales of organic foods slid when suppliers were caught playing fast and loose with the rules, and consumer confidence in what they were paying extra for tumbled? We believe that misrepresentation would cause similar sales erosion in ‘local’ - whether shady growers or others do it, even if those ‘others’ actually have good intentions and no intent to mislead consumers.

We’re talking about flavor companies that have come to market with the likes of heirloom tomato, New Orleans gumbo and other regional flavors. These are created artificially to connote the values of authentic foods that deserve their iconic status. If the food industry embraces such flavors and places them around the supermarket, The Lempert Report feels nothing good would come of it.

People seek out ‘local’ so they could eat healthier foods that taste better and bring them closer to earthly roots. Flavors made in labs don’t cut it for us. Rather than augment the natural appeals of the ‘local’ foods they emulate, we feel these artificial flavors could actually make some consumers shrug about the real stuff. That, in our view, would be a great loss to the authentic producers, to stores, and to consumers who don’t want to lose the gestalt of buying ‘local.’