Consumers Going Loco for Local

A growing number of U.S. consumers are buying locally produced foods, and retailers are taking notice. Using localized methods to produce and distribute food, the products are praised by consumers as being as more sustainable, fresher and environmentally-friendly than alternatives.

The rise in local food consumption is giving food entrepreneurs inroads to greater distribution and retail placement in their area, with retailers as large as Walmart attempting to capitalize on rising demand.

In a recent report published by market research firm Packaged Facts, USDA-reported sales of local food reached $12 billion in 2014, up from $4.8 billion in 2008. Although local products account for just 2 percent of all U.S. retail sales of foods and beverages, Packaged Facts projects local food sales to reach $20 billion by 2019, showing a growth which outpaces the rest of the market.

According to Packaged Facts, not only are consumers demanding locally sourced products, they are willing to pay a premium for the goods. A November, 2014 survey showed that almost 50 percent of respondents said they would pay up to 10 percent more for locally produced foods and almost a third of consumers would pay 25 percent more.

Among the main reasons for purchasing locally produced foods, consumers claimed it was because the products were fresher. More than half of respondents said they bought local to support local businesses, and 40 percent said they purchased local because they believed that the products tasted better than other options. About a third of consumers bought local for health reasons.

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