National Editor Tom KarstDoes the emphasis on local produce and farmers' markets help or hurt the industry? That was one question posed to the LinkedIn Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group.
In the initial volley, Walter writes:
There is not enough supply of local, organic and farmer's market produce to meet demand. Emphasizing these niche attributes as somehow being better or better for you diminishes the value of main stream produce. These attributes are often false like Local Vidilia onions selling in NYC? And are misleading. The nutriative value of mainstream produce is equal to any other specially labeled produce as is the flavor profile. It is more important to convince the general public to eat a piece of fruit two or three times daily than it is for them to eat an heirloom, organic, local or farmer's market fruit just flown in from 3,000 miles away by the cool marketing division of the AAA Industrial Grower.
TK: There are seven comments so far, and I've observed clashing points of view about supermarket appropriation of the "local" image.
The attraction of local/organic/farmer's markets to consumers is undeniable. I think the opportunity for commercial produce is for retailers to take cues from the consumer and provide a shopping experience that more closely emulates these values and environments. It is then incumbent upon suppliers to provide promotional consumer programs that convey those values. Talk about quality, safety, and put the farmer forward in the conversation.
Sarah wryly observed:
I agree the trend to farmers' markets boxes isn't just about the nutrition and flavor of the produce but also about the buying experience. It's a sunny Saturday morning and the whole family is enjoying being outdoors. The family dog is there too. You've all just had breakfast from one of the stalls. You bump into your neighbor (extra bonus points that your neighbor now knows you're that kind of family who buy veggies and organic ones at that). The band is playing. You are chatting to the farmers (even if they are wholesalers, dressed up as farmers) and feeling so proud that you are going home with bag fulls of organic fruits and veggies. So healthy for the family! (even if they end up going off and being thrown out before being consumed). As William said, smart retailers are trying to provide a more farmers' market feel but it takes a bit of thinking outside the box to provide that level of feeling good from current supermarket shelves.