“They’re really good about promoting it. Loblaws is really the leader,” VanBerlo said. “Sobeys is a little sticky on price. Their attitude is when you grow it close to home it should be cheaper. But the consumer is pushing it more than anything.”
Steve Chary, president of Oakland, Ontario-based Chary Produce, agreed retail chains were putting more effort in promoting local produce.
“I don’t know if the promotion’s actually working. Our numbers have fallen off over the last, I’d say, 10 years.”
Consumers want Ontario-grown items, said Tony Tomizza, president of Dominion Farm Produce Co., Bradford.
“A huge focus on buy local, buy within 100 miles, is what they’re saying for the carbon-footprint kind of thing,” he said. “They call it the ‘field to fork’ campaigns, ‘grown in your backyard.’ It really helps us.”
That consumer pressure is helping the category grow, said Eric Chanyi, operations manager of Shabatura Produce, Windham Centre, Ontario.
“In the last couple of years, they’ve really pushed the buy local,” he said. “They’re actually creating a competition to create nicest displays. There are pictures of growers and placards and putting it in the consumers’ faces. The display contest has been really good. It’s more than just a photo in the paper. The last couple of years, they’ve done well.”