The desire to know where food comes from is so strong in Montreal that even the city’s famous public markets have been forced to change.
Lysanne David, communication manager for Montreal Public Markets, said customer complaints last year led to a new policy for vendors at Jean Talon, Atwater, Maisonneuve and Lachine markets and the 11 neighborhood markets under the Montreal Public Markets banner.
“Vendors now have to indicate where each product comes from, whether it’s local or imported,” she said.
They can use their own signs or ones the association made up, she said, and market staff check the veracity of the information.
David said market shoppers are pleased with the change and feel well-informed.
“In Montreal there’s a big demand for local products,” she said. “Not just for the freshness, but people like knowing the strawberries they just bought are from a farm 20 miles away.”
Little Italy’s Jean Talon market attracts more than 2 million visitors a year.
In the past few years, the market has seen more people ages 25-35 shopping at public markets, which are open seven days a week year-round.
“This group is more interested in food and in eating at home and trying good restaurants,” David said.
“It’s not our biggest segment, but it’s growing the fastest.”
A little more than half the shoppers are women, she said.
David said many families stop by the markets in December to buy a Christmas tree and pick up special items for holiday meals.
To keep shoppers focused on local products during the winter, when many vendors sell imported produce, the market will launch an updated website on Dec. 10 featuring monthly recipes for seasonal ingredients.
“Rather than buy U.S. strawberries, for example, we’ll propose ways to use Quebec cranberries,” she said.
A construction project to beautify the outdoor sales area at the Art Deco Atwater market is also nearing completion, said David.
“It’s a big improvement and the vendors are pleased,” she said.