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.
But Walter asks if the "image" of local is honest - and if that matters...
What if the demand for Farmers Market or locally grown doubled - would the farmers even be able to fill it? With Whole Foods and other Big Box stores trying to present a "Local" image how much of the supply is really just something that looks like but not really what it represents.
TK: If there is a backlash coming against local food, it may first hit retailers who promote an image without sufficient backup. Check out this active discussion and chime in if you think retailers like Whole Foods are treading on thin ice by promoting local food a little too vigorously to support the truth of the matter.
The Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group, now at 4,763 members, has several other discussions that will be of interest to some readers.
A members wants the broader industry to help settle what he called an "internal dispute."
Here is the whimsical poll question.
Corrugated Carton or Cardboard Box: Ok, you guys can help me settle an internal dispute over terminology. What do you call the produce boxes you purchase? "Corrugated" or "Cardboard"?
I don't care, just get me my box...
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