By: Devon Kohler
I had the opportunity to sit down with managers from both Foodies in Duxbury and Hannaford in Kingston, the first step in my quest to bring local food to more mainstream venues. The good news is both Hannaford and Foodies are on board with the local food movement. Both organizations see the value of incorporating local food into their offerings. They see the tide changing in the population and want to satisfy their customers and capitalize on this growing market. Most importantly they recognize the health and environmental benefits of sourcing more and more of our food locally. Hannaford has a local food publication called “Close to Home,” a “farm stand” in the middle of their produce department, and has incorporated “local food sourcing” into its divisional merchandizing role. Foodies has a fluctuating supply of locally grown produce during the summer months and has had a variety of local products on display for tasting and purchasing.
The vision is there, the initial steps have been taken, but there are huge challenges to expanding beyond the current local offering. Both managers cited cost as a huge impediment to incorporating more locally sourced foods. It is absolutely crazy to think that it is more cost effective for grocery stores to order and have food shipped from producers thousands of miles away than from farms within a 30 mile radius. Getting into grocery stores is challenging from the local suppliers perspective as well. Corporate regulations can be extremely complicated and costly, prohibiting many small local vendors from even considering pushing their products into more mainstream venues. There is also the cost to the consumer issue, which is especially relevant in the current struggling economy. Grocery stores simply can not envision their consumers willing to pay substantially more for products sitting right next to cheaper counterparts just because they are more “local.” And, to top it off, local produce, which is often harvested within hours or days of reaching the grocery store still can not match the shelf life of produce that has been treated with chemicals, gasses, and preservatives along its journey cross country or even internationally.
So, where do we go from here? I think we start small, prove that we can change the dynamics of the local producer-grocery store relationship, prove that we can change the mindset of the local consumer, prove that there is a model that can work. Foodies is flexible enough to be able to capitalize on this niche market and differentiate itself as a “go to” venue for local food. First steps might be a simple as Foodies purchasing shares from a local CSA and making that produce available in the store with guidance on how to use it, i.e. cooking methods and recipe ideas. Along with making the local food available there will need to be an educational component as well. We need to help the local consumer find more value in buying and eating local and seasonal. Once we are successful with the baby steps, I feel strongly that we can continue to expand the model. In the next couple of weeks I am going to look at the other sides, get the perspective of the local farmer/vendor and the local consumer as well. If this is going to move forward we need buy in from all sides.
Please share any ideas/suggestions with me as I continue on my quest to accomplish my “Farm to Aisle 2” goal.
Devon Kohler is the author of the Farm to Aisle 2 series.
For more information on Foodies Market in Duxbury, MA, please visit their website: http://www.foodies-market.com.