Will the local food movement see a post-pandemic boost?
The local foods movement has been growing for at least a decade and appears to have picked up speed during the pandemic.
Surveys have shown consumers eager to buy from independent retailers and restaurants as many have been faced with challenges created by the spread of COVID-19. To a lesser degree, such community support is believed to have extended to local farmers and food purveyors.
Kim Severson, writing for The New York Times, included “Hometown Tastes” as one of her top food trends for 2021 as travel-restricted consumers are drawn to “hyper-regional American food.” Ms. Severson wrote, “That means renewed interest in state-specific barbecue styles, locally made sodas and cheeses, fish species from nearby waters and sweet specialties like the chocolate-dipped peanut butter Ohio buckeye or Kentucky cream pull candy.”
Also supporting demand for local foods has been the uptick in home cooking during the pandemic, complemented by interest in home gardening and food preservation. Relatedly, the health crisis has heightened attention around food quality to the benefit of local farmers.
From the logistics front, empty grocery store shelves “revealed the potential for supply chain disruptions and prompted shoppers to explore buying directly from local farms, which were reeling from the disruption of restaurant and other food service clients and needed new revenue streams,” wrote Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz for the Chicago Tribune. A number of farms, especially those near urban centers, have augmented their efforts with direct marketing and launched e-commerce capabilities to capitalize on the demand.
Some grocers are amplifying their local food efforts. Hy-Vee is hosting quarterly “Best of Local Brands” summits in 2021. Meijer just announced plans to host its first virtual Localization Summit. Said Peter Whitsett, Meijer’s EVP of merchandising and marketing, in a statement, “Each Meijer store should represent its customers and the community that makes those customers unique.”
In a column for The Farmer’s Exchange, professors at the Michigan State University Extension wrote that the “buy local” movement should strengthen as additional consumers have experienced farm markets, farmer’s markets and direct sales of fruit, vegetables, beef and other protein products. The professors added, “How much of an increase is hard to gauge.”
- The pandemic changed how and what we eat. Will that stick in 2021? – Chicago Tribune
- How Will We Eat in 2021? 11 Predictions to Chew On – The New York Times
- Hy-Vee to Start Hosting Quarterly “Best of Local Brands” Summits in 2021 – Hy-Vee
- Meijer Seeks Products Made in the Midwest at Upcoming Localization Summit – Meijer
- Food Security, Local Foods Enjoy Renewed Interest During Pandemic – The Farmer’s Exchange
- Emma Anderson: COVID-19 showed us the importance of local food and community – The State Journal
- How pandemic altered what Oregonians eat and the way they think about food – Capital Press
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: In what ways have you witnessed the local foods movement gaining momentum during the pandemic? Which factors that are either new or were accelerated during the pandemic could support the trend’s long-term growth?