The impetus to purchase locally-sourced food has been around for years, and now is starting to fall into “trend” territory. Though farmer’s markets and farm to table restaurants are long-standing pillars of many communities, there has been a push among consumers to change the way that food is purchased and prepared.
The reasons for this shift are manyfold. Some are doing it as a statement against big food, though many large food corporations still have a hand in the local food movement. Buying locally can also help an individual reduce their carbon footprint by lowering expenditures related to cost and transportation. Related to this, fewer preservatives in food may also help buyers eat healthier.
As with any initiative, there are hurdles to surmount if this trend is to become the norm in coming years. Local food can be expensive to purchase, as it often comes from smaller farms that cannot afford to charge less. Additionally, it is often ambiguous as to where food comes from; as previously mentioned, food corporations may source some of their wares locally, though still using the processes and preservatives that make many wary of big food.
Still, many farms have taken notice, and modern trends such as free-range cattle, a focus on sustainability, and creative uses of offal are all byproducts of the “locavore” movement. The question then becomes one of marketing: how can these smaller producers compete with large food for the benefit of concerned consumers?
As with any marketing issue, it’s all about identifying a need and working to fulfill it. One startup, Seal the Seasons, is trying to bring transparency to grocery stores. They’re working to stock freeze aisles with locally-sourced goods and label each product with its point of origination. This can help shoppers make informed decisions about the goods they’re buying, encouraging them to stay away from food that may have come from thousands of miles away. Its founder, Patrick Mateer, is a firm believer in providing local foods at a competitive price, believing that shoppers are willing to shop local if it is economically convenient for them.
In Ohio, the organization OhioProud is making a similar effort to better promote local food. They’ve worked to provide marketing to farmers who would otherwise be without it, their signature label adorning any food from their affiliates. A report from Ohio State University reveals that 81% of survey responders indicated a preference for locally grown foods. OhioProud has capitalized on this desire to go local, partnering with farms, grocers, and restaurants alike to complete their mission.
Other establishments have leveraged their use of local food as a selling point. Though this approach is far from common, some restaurants even grow food in-house. Hyper-local food, as it has been called, can range from a tiny herb garden to a business’ private plot of land. Artisanal restaurants have also become a staple of many cities. While these “artisan foods” are often more a buzzword than anything of actual substance, the name implies handcrafted foods. Be wary of these establishments, as the food may not necessarily be local.
So is local food here to stay, or another fad? Many believe that the demand for these products will not go away, and general interest seems to point to a populace that has become more aware about what they eat. In the future, expect to see more of an effort by distributors to highlight local food and help mitigate the costs of purchasing. Check the shelves next time you’re at the grocery store; you may be surprised at what you can find from your own (figurative) backyard.