Business and Operations
Going Local An argument for buying and selling locally.
February 6, 2008 By Erin Fletcher
In November at a meeting hosted by the National Council of Grocery
Distributors the following statement was made three times by different
representatives from the major grocery chains: “With all else,
especially taste, being equal, we will buy locally.”
In November at a meeting hosted by the National Council of Grocery Distributors the following statement was made three times by different representatives from the major grocery chains: “With all else, especially taste, being equal, we will buy locally.”
|Buying locally: More and more consumers are looking for products made not hundreds of miles away but in their own back yard.|
Every large grocery chain is working on a strategy to highlight local products; many smaller independent stores are touting local as their point of difference; journalists for Time magazine are questioning their loyalty to organics when faced with a choice between local products and organic ones trucked over many miles; and every local farm organization is aligning into value chains and working on projects to brand and promote local eating.
The market opportunity is the ever-increasing disposable income of the “buy local” consumer. These people are baby boomers and young urbanites who shop for healthy products that are socially responsible.
“The opportunity for local foods will only intensify as consumers hear more on the news about overseas imports,” says John Scott, of the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers (CFIG). “We are targeting the top tier; an aware shopper.”
First movers in the bakery sector are developing products to target this growing niche. Stonemill Bakehouse, a bakery from Scarborough, has developed a new line of breads made with 100 per cent Ontario wheat flour.
Another Ontario company that has had success with Ontario products is Griffith Laboratories, a supplier of food ingredients including coating systems, seasonings, sauces and dough blends. This innovative and successful company has optimized its production lines to favour the use of Ontario wheat. The decision to use Ontario wheat was a functional one but the secondary benefit is the company’s position in Ontario as a market leader for locally produced food ingredients.
The key to the success of any new product strategy, buy local included, will be marketing to the consumer. Consumers are buying into local for two reasons – credibility and traceability. In Australia they call this “known provenance” – full traceability of ingredients produced via known production and processing protocols and market players. When marketing any local product these attributes must be in the forefront for any buy local strategy to work.
There is lots to work with in Ontario when developing a marketing strategy for a new local product. Farmers are ranked in the top five year after year as the most trusted profession in Canada. Local consumers love to know their product came from an idyllic place in the country they can drive by on a Sunday. Ontario farms each have a story to tell about the families that live there and the land they have farmed for centuries.
There is also more than a pastoral story from the countryside. There are strict protocols in place for food safety and established logistical systems that will allow any bakery to target its supply to a region or even a specific farm if the local brand’s story demands it. Varieties of wheat have been developed with end users in mind and can be adapted even further to address new market needs.
For bakeries interested in developing products for this local niche market there are two current opportunities to assist with product development and marketing. For companies interested in developing a brand with a farmer or farm story as a component, there is an opportunity to work directly with the farmers themselves from the ground up. Working in partnership with the farmers growing your product will provide your brand both credibility and traceability.
The Ontario Wheat Producers’ Marketing Board represents the 17,000 Ontario wheat producers in the province from the soft wheat growers from Windsor in the west to the hard spring wheat growers east of Ottawa and all points in between. The Board has developed an Innovation Support Fund to assist companies with the development of new Ontario flour-based products that have the potential to expand the usage of Ontario wheat. Ontario wheat flour is available for every baking application including the full range of hard wheat flour products (i.e., breads and pastas).
By working together, the bakery benefits from a direct link to the ingredient suppliers for the development of a proprietary flour that will take advantage of the latest wheat variety advancements and a relationship with the growers and flour mill involved in the supply chain to ensure control over every stage of the process.
Projects that satisfy the eligibility criteria established for this fund can expect to receive up to 75 per cent of the cost of the project, to a maximum of $25,000. The Fund will provide financial support and expertise in the areas of product development, product analysis, pilot scale trials and packaging techniques.
The second opportunity is with the Government of Ontario’s Foodland Ontario program that has extended its logo use agreement to include all fresh products made with 100 per cent local ingredients. The Foodland Ontario brand has an 80 per cent recognition rate amongst Ontario consumers and has recently been revitalized with a $12-million investment by the Ontario government focused on television advertising to broaden awareness of local foods beyond fresh fruits and vegetables.
Any company interested in working with Foodland Ontario is encouraged to contact its office for a logo agreement at www.foodlandontario.ca. Once a product has been accepted into its program, there are promotional materials available and many partnership opportunities for advertising, both at a reasonable cost.
Above all else, the key to success in the local market will be taste, as underlined by all of the retail representatives who have spoken on this issue in the past year. Unlike many retail opportunities, however, a buy local strategy will only be as successful as its partnerships with the producers in Ontario that grow the ingredients with quality and traceability in mind.
Erin Fletcher is stakeholder relations manager with the Ontario Wheat Producers’ Marketing Board. Find out more about the Ontario Wheat Board at www.ontariowheatboard.com .
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