Grown in the USA!

Discussion
Jul 07, 2011
Tom Ryan

Consumers like to see “green” claims such as natural, organic or sustainable on food labels, but “Grown in the USA” also is gaining popularity, according results of a recent survey.

Asked “Which is the best description to read on a food label,” some 17 percent of 1,013 consumers in the survey from Shelton Group said they wanted to see a ‘Grown in the USA’ label on the produce they buy. That was exceeded only by “100 percent natural” or “All natural,” at 25 percent; and “USDA Certified Organic” or “100 percent organic,” at 24 percent.

In a statement, Suzanne Shelton, president of Shelton Group, said the popularity of ‘Grown in the USA’ reflects three underlying trends.

“First, Americans are increasingly worried about food contamination, and they’re concerned about water treatment and crop fertilization in other countries. Second, there is growing support for family farms and local sourcing — a trend that’s gone mainstream in the last several years, including at Walmart,” said Ms. Shelton. “And finally, people are concerned about the economy and job losses, so buying ‘Grown in the USA’ is a away to help fellow Americans.”

The National Grocers Association’s 2011 Consumer Survey Report likewise found locally grown increasing in appeal. According to the trade group’s survey, the 38 percent who eat locally grown foods ‘moderately’ – between two and seven times per week—were just 33 percent in 2001 and 31 percent in 2009.

Some 86 percent of respondents called the presence of local foods ‘very important” or ‘somewhat important’ to store choice, up from 83 percent a year ago and 79 percent in 2009. More impressive, 45 percent considered it ‘very important,’ up from 41 percent in 2010.

At the extreme is the Eat Local Challenge, in which individuals and groups vow for a month to limit their choices to foods source within either a 100-, 150- or 250-mile radius. The movement, started in 2005 in Portland, has spread to cities across the nation.

According to the report on the movement in Nevada Appeal, the motivation for these “localvores” is not only seeking out higher quality food, improved taste and richer nutrition but supporting the local economy and smaller farmers and significantly reducing the carbon footprint involved in shipping foods from far-off places.

Discussion Questions: How strong is the trend toward “Grown in the USA” and locally-grown movements? Do you think consumers are willing to pay a premium for locally grown or sourced foods or do they expect a discount?

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21 Comments on "Grown in the USA!"


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Bob Phibbs
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

I was surprised to witness an older woman pick up a container of blueberries, scoff out loud, “Product of Chile!”, put them back and walk on. I think this could be larger than just environmentalists concerned with how much it costs to have products from far away.

John Boccuzzi, Jr.
Guest
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
9 years 10 months ago

This is going to be a long term trend for several reasons 1) Oil prices will continue to rise over the next 20 years which will increase the cost of transporting food from other countries. 2) People will become more aware of some of the poor farming practices in other countries. 3) Demand for food in third world countries will continue to grow, putting a strain on the overall food supply chain. Imagine walking into a local grocer and not being able to find fresh fruit or vegetables.

As demand for food continues to increase globally, it will be very important for the US to not be dependent on other countries for food. Food, like oil, can become an issue of national security and financial collapse

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

These findings are similar to what I observed when conducting research for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture on locally grown/sourced foods.

When assessing the attitude toward products grown, manufactured or processed in Pennsylvania, the top ranked attribute was “fresher products” receiving over one third (actual = 36.2%) of the highest ranking. The next ranked top attribute was “supports the local economy” with slightly more than one in six (actual = 17.3%) ranking it the highest.

Although there is no real commitment of dollars in the research, the majority (actual = 55.8%) of respondents indicated that they would be willing to pay at least a 5% premium for PA Preferred products. Again, all prices are on trial and need to be tested in the marketplace not via the survey instrument.

Joel Rubinson
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

This could be very powerful in shaping consumer choices. It taps into incredibly strong emotions but hasn’t been made much of an issue by marketers as of yet. If US cooperatives begin advertising this issue, it could explode.

David Livingston
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

Sometimes it’s difficult for me to want to pay $4 for a 1 lb package of tiny strawberries at the farmers market when Aldi sells better looking ones for 99 cents. And how do you define “local?” To some stores “local” means North America. Stores need to find a match of making customers feel good about themselves and at the same time provide them with the products they want regardless of their origin. Its all about good marketing and when I start seeing locally grown bananas in the stores, then I know this has been accomplished. As far as a trend, well we are seeing continued increases in the sales of natural and organic products. We are seeing retailers redefining “local” and promoting it. So yes, we have a trend.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

Well, if you’re asking Paula the person, I will tell you it’s very strong. I am really tired of living in a country that doesn’t make much of anything, and I don’t like our food production being trusted to “agribusiness” either. The stuff is grown for shipment convenience, not for eating pleasure – compare the taste of tomatoes – and I am totally not liking genetically engineered food either.

So any time I can buy something grown or made in the USA, I will do it. And if I can support an independent ANYTHING, I will likely do so.

Tony Orlando
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

In my town very few people are willing to pay a premium for anything, and it makes it very tough to raise the margins in a store with poor people hunting for bargains. I’ll get a deal on red peppers from Mexico and blow them out at $1.69lb. vs. USA homegrown for $3.99lb. which happens a lot. Larger cities with higher incomes… Yes there is a demand for the better stuff, and good for them, but as a retailer, I must provide good food at good prices to keep things moving thru the system. The one exception is beef, which customers absolutely want USDA inspected…

Ian Percy
Guest
9 years 10 months ago
Does the marketing slogan “Grown in the USA” really warm the cockles of your heart? The image is of farmer Bob in his coveralls unloading his vegetables harvested just this morning from the back of a 1956 Chevy pickup but is that what we’re really talking about? Who really controls most of the food grown in America? I don’t think it’s our friendly neighborhood farmer, he’s probably under contract to Corporate America obligated to do their bidding without question. Are we not the world leaders in genetically modified foods? Don’t we use every chemical at our disposal to raise yield and lengthen shelf life? As someone in the BrainTrust pointed out awhile back there are several states with laws preventing people from reporting unhealthy farming practices. Where’s the furor over that? I’m sorry but “Grown in the USA” isn’t a guarantee of anything. No guarantee that the food is healthy and no guarantee that the farmer is getting what he deserves for his labor. Now if Tom Ryan is saying that the local truly INDEPENDENT… Read more »
Steve Montgomery
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

This is a trend that will grow over time for a variety of reasons. Mr. Boccuzzi’s comments capture three of the underlying reasons. Add to them the “feel good” reasons outlined in the article and you have a definitely have a sustainable movement.

David Biernbaum
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

I recommend to all of my clients that make products in the U.S. to go ahead and flaunt it as an effective marketing strategy. American consumers are emotional about patriotism, jobs, and the belief in USA quality. Often even a small American flag will be the tie-breaker to drive sales at the point of purchase.

Dan Stanek
Guest
Dan Stanek
9 years 10 months ago

I have not seen as much interest in U.S. grown as in locally grown. It is not just about supporting local farms, but also the implied freshness associated with those products. A segment of the population is willing to pay a premium, but most will opt for it only if it is about the same price.

Roy White
Guest
Roy White
9 years 10 months ago

Whether we like it or not, we live in a global world and food imported from other countries will remain a significant part of the American diet. The phrase “Grown in the USA” and the word “natural” tend to be abused by marketeers. They sound good on a label. The real issue is sufficient funding for the D of A and the FDA to ensure our food supply, both domestic and foreign, is safe to consume.

That said, the “localvores” trend does appear to have legs, and that development provides plenty of benefits, including higher levels of safety and reduced transportation costs.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

I question why consumers would be willing to pay more for “grown in the USA” products other than the prestige of saying “I buy and eat only products grown…” Is this an ego thing? Nothing against Whole Foods or their customers; but paying more for the same products, wherever they are grown, does not match well with the economic conditions we are living through. I prefer to buy locally grown products. That would be my preference in anything (except some electronics). The reality and execution of it is more difficult.

Herb Sorensen
Guest
9 years 10 months ago
Sometimes I wonder if I have mis-stepped and fallen down the rabbit hole. Do we have a world economy staggering from misguided and or venal leadership – chosen and urged on by populaces with a poor understanding of how the world works? Under these circumstances, shouldn’t Luddite locavore issues move the marketplace? “Idealism” is often unhinged from reality. Imagined benefits often turn out to be retrograde in actual practice. When idealism is a mask for low-grade paranoia, it may be harmless when practiced at the fringe of society. Making a market on it is a legitimate part of free enterprise. But as government continues to pervade the market, what begins as free choice becomes a system of market rules. For example, what may be advertised as “organic”? The “may” of permission is only a step on the road to “must” of control. Free trade and access to the goods of the world have driven prosperity, globally. Let the anti-prosperity fringe have their way, for themselves. But don’t encourage them!
Roger Saunders
Guest
9 years 10 months ago
Suzanne Shelton’s view that “Grown In the USA” ties to consumer concerns about the economy and supporting jobs locally is on target. And, paying close attention to Consumers who have concerns about “Food Safety” and added “Environmental Responsibility” can pay off for Retailers and Marketers. BIGresearch monitors consumers views on the later two topics each month in the Consumer Intentions & Actions (CIA) Survey of 8,500+ Adults. Over the past 4 years, Consumers Female Consumers who have expressed “Higher Awareness of Food Safety” has been as high as 25.9% of Female Adults to a low of 17.2%. And, those saying that they have “Become more environmentally conscious in the past 6 months” have fluctuated between 27.1% and 16.1% of female respondents during that time frame. The important points to hold in focus about these consumers lies in their Behavior and Attitude plans. For example, Consumers who have high awareness of “Food Safety” and “Environmental Responsibility” are more likely to have a distinct Preference for where they shop most often for virtually every item in their… Read more »
Craig Sundstrom
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

Survey claims notwithstanding, talk is cheap and food isn’t…the only label most people really care about is one that says x% off on it.

Mark Burr
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

The trend is strong for Grown in the USA. It’s even stronger for grown locally–much stronger for grown locally.

Consumers don’t necessarily want a discount. They don’t want to spend more either. They want a fair price.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

The locally grown movement is significant and here to stay (though not synonymous with “Made in America,” which can’t realistically regain traction in many categories outside of food). Locally grown isn’t just a U.S. phenomena either, as Rick Darling, president of LF USA, a subsidiary of Li & Fung, noted in my recent interview http://is.gd/0wLVts with him, it’s catching on in Asia as well.

James Tenser
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

If we’re talking strictly about fresh food, then “local” seems more important than “grown in the USA.” Here in the arid southwest, spring table grapes from northern Mexico may actually travel a shorter distance than those grown in California.

Grapes from Chile travel much farther, but they are available during seasons when local produce is non-existent.

Since shoppers continue to demand wide variety year round, then some proportion of imported foods will be a requirement in the mix. This is especially true for items like berries, stone fruits and seafood.

In my opinion, shoppers probably figure that foods that travel long distances are likely to suffer in quality. Local is best–when desired items are available. Otherwise, some compromises are OK to get what they want.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
9 years 10 months ago

Groan in the USA and locally-groan. D.C. supermarkets feature “locally grown” produce from California. In Cal, supermarkets feature “locally grown” fruit from Florida and Chile. Farmers Market vendors sell tomatoes from other states with the typical waxy coating (for preservation), uniform shapes, and lack of taste found in supermarkets. And for a higher price. Argentinean beef shows up in frozen and refrigerated entrees featuring “Product Of The USA” labels because the bulk of the contents (vegetables, pasta, and goo) are sourced domestically. Who’s kidding whom?

Once again in these spaces I recommend the book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan. Find it easily at Amazon.com. If you are really serious about this and related topics, you will learn more about food origins, purity, and sustainability than from any other easy-to-read source. And no, I neither know Pollan nor receive a commission for sales of this book. But, it’s highly-rated at the DocBanks Book Review & Bitching Society.

Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
9 years 9 months ago

I think locally grown means more than “Grown in the US.” Consumers do want to support the local economy and prefer local for taste, freshness and overall appeal.

Retailers can do a better job of promoting local products by defining what local means (usually within a certain mile radius). They also need to clearly label products and make them very visible in the stores. Effective marketing, advertising what’s in season with promotions and even photos of local farmers, all make sense. If one promotes what’s in season, there should not be a huge premium which most consumers are probably not willing to pay.

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