Consumers increasingly view local foods and beverages as more trustworthy than those that carry organic and natural designations, and as a result, the U.S. Department of Agriculture pegs annual U.S. sales of local food and beverage products at over $11 billion. In a recent report, The Hartman Group, a consulting and research firm focused on consumer behavior and attitudes, wrote that “the authenticity halo around organic and natural has begun to fade, and local foods and beverages are poised to surpass them as a symbol of trust and transparency.”
The report notes that “support of community and regional economics and foodways is one significant element,” of rising demand for local products.
“Where, earlier, local acted as a philosophical bridge between organic and natural, today the term offers a compelling narrative that resonates with many salient food trends and consumer concerns,” The Hartman Group wrote.
Specifically, the report found that “consumers believe local producers and small farmers have more integrity and are deeply invested in the quality of their products” and that “the ability to engage with and ask questions of local producers speaks to the desire for transparency and reciprocal relationships, which consumers feel is missing with bigger companies.”
Notably, The Hartman Group found a strong link to organic shoppers, reporting that “35 percent of organic buyers said they were buying more local products today than a year ago.” Perceived better taste, community ties, minimization of carbon footprint and freshness of local food are also a key factor to surging sales.
“Consumers understand that products that travel shorter distances are likely fresher,” the report reads. “Smaller production signals food that is in tune with the seasons and the unique qualities of the locale from which it comes.”
Retailers of local food and beverage producers should take advantage of rising demand for such products by marketing and promoting their sale. Consumers’ draw for “farm-to-table” menus has had a significant impact and trickle-down effect, inspiring “a cultural shift toward locally produced products with accompanying links to transparency and authenticity,” the report reads. Moreover, consumers view local as “a distinction that means more than organic to deeply engaged consumers who might believe that many small farmers cannot afford certification but nonetheless produce high-quality foods with integrity.”