According to a study from A.T. Kearney, consumers have trust issues when buying local food at national and big box retailers.
The online survey of 1,300 U.S. consumers found that most people say they shop primarily at big box or national chains. However, when asked about the trustworthiness of the different formats to deliver local food safely, farmers' markets and farm stores rank first, followed by natural foods supermarkets, and locally owned supermarkets. Relative to price, farmers' markets and farm stores outperformed all other formats, followed by big box retailers, national and local supermarkets, natural foods supermarkets, and online grocers.
The study also found shoppers open to switching stores for a better local food selection. Almost 30 percent of grocery shoppers say they consider purchasing food elsewhere if their preferred store does not carry local foods. When asked about the availability of local food at their preferred supermarket, 65 percent say their supermarket offers at least some kind of locally sourced food. However, only five percent indicate they shop for local foods at big box retailers, and 15 percent at national supermarkets. Respondents say their main source for local food is still the local farmers' market and farm stores.
The report also indicated that part of the challenge for bigger stores is the lack of clarity around the term 'local,' with many retailers "tailoring the term to their advantage with little transparency into how they define it." Small farmer organizations have complained about instances where fruits and vegetables harvested hundreds of miles away being declared local.
Among the study's recommendations:
Understand that fresh matters. No matter the format, freshness and quality are paramount. It is critical that local food products are adequately presented in terms of shelf space and location.
Convey local products' authenticity. Developing dedicated sections with in-store signage is a strategy for highlighting local food assortments. Another option is to create a store brand for local food products.
Consider the implications for buying and category management. Category buyers must establish visibility within each defined region with regard to price and quantities, and make decisions on local assortments.
Don't underestimate the supply chain impact. Having local farmers supply nearby stores, even in limited quantities, will force a reconsideration and redesign of the traditional supply chain model.
Which of the study's four recommendations will most improve trust issues around local foods for big boxes and national chains?