Some organic suppliers are concerned locally grown produce promotions may confuse consumers, even though the two may not be in direct competition with each other.
“I think there has been a lot of talk about whether the two groups compete, but I think that customers who are interested in organic will also buy local whenever they can,” said Diane Dempster, manager of the Farmer’s Own program and local organic procurement for Seattle-based Charlie’s Produce.
Dempster said consumers are often interested in both organics and locally grown.
“If they can get local and organic, they will choose that,” she said.
The organic and locally grown produce trends also tend to place a strong focus on better taste and the source of the item, something consumers ultimately want.
“Two things that we keep hearing from our customers in foodservice and retail are where the food comes from and does it have the flavor,” Dempster said.
Confusion between the two groups can exist, however, even if they are not in direct competition.
“I think there can be some confusion,” said Jim Roberts, vice president of sales, Naturipe Farms, Naples, Fla.
“Some consumers see the locally grown label and think it also means organic,” he said. “I do think folks may think it’s produced differently because it’s local but that’s typically not the case.”
Despite this, Roberts agrees the two groups aren’t really in competition, especially when more experienced buyers are involved.
“Those hardcore organic users are used to identifying the product,” he said. “And organic is really about a lifestyle choice as opposed to just wanting fresh product or wanting to support a local farmer they may know.”