What is local in 2014?

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

very small.


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?