As we approach Thanksgiving there are many signs all over food stores promoting
the ‘local’ offering they have. Consumers say they want local and there are many
reasons this is the right thing to do.
There have been different definitions of local and as time goes by local seems
to reach further and further as the world becomes a smaller place. In the past,
CFIA who is responsible for food labeling in Canada, would have defined local as
produced within a 50km range. Their new interim definition for local can be found
on the CFIA website:
In the interim, the CFIA is adopting an interim policy which
recognizes “local” as:
food produced in the province or territory in which it is sold, or
food sold across provincial borders within 50 km of the originating
province or territory.
Everywhere in Canada this is a positive step except the Maritimes. We need a
regional definition for local. The geography and the population warrant a regional
definition of local to match the distribution network of the food retailers.
It is always interesting to ask consumers about local. In a telephone survey nearly
100% would say they want more local and that they buy local. Watch them in the
store. There are more important factors in the decision to buy such as price, quality
and selection. It is a very small percentage of the population who will sacrifice these
factors to support local. They are out there but certainly not the high numbers who
respond yes to local questions in phone surveys.
My advice to suppliers is do not rely on local to be your point of differentiation.
Develop and produce products that can compete with the best you are up against.
If you accomplish these challenges then local becomes a point of differentiation for
you. If you are too expensive, lacking quality or product innovation your market gets
People also have to be realistic about the marketplace we operate in. We are eager
to produce millions of pounds of potatoes and export them around the world but
then we want people to only support local. What do the people in other regions or
countries think when they see our potatoes?
A few weeks ago I was in a store at a ‘local’ event with some NS blueberries. A
customer approached us and told us how she was so happy to see the local product.
She explained in great detail how she only eats local fruits and vegetables in season.
It is a sacrifice for her but that is her commitment to local producers and the local
economy. After she walked away with her cart, not 15 feet from us she leaned over
and selected a nice watermelon from Texas out of the bin…I was wondering how she
could see that as ‘local’. So how does the retailer satisfy this ‘local’ customer?