The locally grown produce movement just kept getting bigger and more popular in 2015.

Feb. 16
Study suggests distributors, retailers taking larger share of local food sales

By Tom Karst, National Editor

Supermarkets are stealing some local food demand from farmers markets, a new U.S. Department of Agriculture report indicates. Called "Trends in U.S. local and regional food systems," the 89-page USDA Economic Research Service report said inflation-adjusted sales through farmers markets did not increase from 2007 to 2012, while overall sales of local food increased by nearly 30% in roughly the same period. While sales of food through direct-to-consumer outlets (farmers markets, roadside stands, you-pick operations) have leveled off, local food sales through intermediated marketing channels (distributors, food hubs and retailers) appear to be increasing, according to the report. "Growing consumer demand for local food may have been met by retailers rather than through direct-to-consumer sales," according to the report.
 
June 1
New Jersey proposed rules would define ‘local" food

By Doug Ohlemeier, Eastern Editor

The Garden State is proposing a "truth in advertising" law regarding the marketing, sale and distribution of local food. Citing a lack of standards or definition for fruits, vegetables, milk and cheese marketed as "local," the New Jersey Department of Agriculture in Trenton published proposed rules to define local. Released on May 4, the three proposals seek to define a standard for classifying local and impose penalties on those that mislead, mislabel or misidentify farm products sold in the state as "local," "locally grown" and "locally produced," according to the proposal. The agency is responding to increasing consumer interest in where their food originates and wanted to find a way to prevent product not actually grown nearby or in the state from being marketed as such. The penalty for a first offense is not more than $100 and not to exceed $200 for subsequent offenses and when a violation involves false, misleading or improper labeling, each package or unit of sale will be considered a separate offense, according to the proposal. The proposed rules do not exclude growers or marketers from doing business in New Jersey and only regulate those that market farm products sold in the state as "local," according to the proposal. Tom Beaver, a research associate with the Trenton-based New Jersey Farm Bureau, said the state"s growers have discussed the topic for two years and said the agency is trying to do what other states attempted.

June 1
Jersey Fresh program remains top marketing trend

By Melissa Shipman, Special to The Packer

The locally grown movement is the biggest marketing push for most New Jersey grower-shippers. When it comes to communicating the local message, there are a few strategies. Many consumers mistakenly associate New Jersey with being all urban areas so farm stands are popular with vacationers.

Aug. 3
Definition of local continues to evolve

By Coral Beach, Staff Writer

Mankind may never know if the chicken or the egg came first, but there is no doubt the locavore preceded the locally grown movement. In 2007, the editors of the New Oxford American Dictionary proclaimed locavore the word of the year. They"d had their eyes on the term since 2005. "Locavore was coined two years ago by a group of four women in San Francisco who proposed that local residents should try to eat only food grown or produced within a 100-mile radius," according to a November 2007 blog post from the Oxford University Press. The following year, Congress used the 2008 farm bill to define locally and/or regionally grown as a final product that is marketed "so that the total distance that the product is transported is less than 400 miles from the origin of the product or the state in which the product is produced."

The definition was part of legislators" emphasis on nutrition and is used in the guidelines for the $1 billion Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program that provides healthy snacks to 3 million low-income children.

"But the farm bill isn"t a regulation," said Kathy Means, vice president of industry relations for the Produce Marketing Association. "It"s hard to say what local is."

Means said seasonal availability provides a revolving selection of locally grown fresh produce, forcing many consumers to limit their locavore lifestyles to a "when I can get it" schedule. Some greenhouse growers are working to remove such restrictions on some commodities.

Pete Quiring, president of Nature Fresh Farms, Leamington, Ontario, said the company"s expansion into the U.S. with a greenhouse complex in Dublin, Ohio, is partly in response to consumer demands for year-round tomatoes with the fewest food miles possible. The 400-mile or eight-hour rule of thumb is a realistic way to define local, Quiring said, because it addresses consumers" concerns about the fresh factor as well as the carbon footprint of the produce they buy.
 
Aug. 3
N.J. revises proposed ‘local" rule

By Coral Beach, Staff Writer

Public comments have spurred state officials to revise a proposed rule in New Jersey that seeks to limit the use of the word "local" to refer only to produce and other farm products from the Garden State. The state"s Board of Agriculture voted July 22 to remove a requirement from the proposed rule that mandated labels include the specific localities, as well as the states, where non-New Jersey produce and foods are produced. The revision requires only the state of origin, said Lynne Richmond, public information officer for the agriculture department.

Growers and state officials have been discussing the need for a definition of locally grown for at least two years. If enacted, it would be the first official government definition of locally grown in the country, according to the Jersey Fresh website.

"Because of increased consumer interest in knowing more about where their food comes from, the department has been approached by some New Jersey farmers, who have questioned the presence of farm products for sale in New Jersey that are identified as local but are coming from sources that are actually not nearby and are not in New Jersey at all," according to the summary of the proposed rule.

The revised proposed rule is expected to be published soon, Richmond said. The agriculture board may seek additional comments. As of July 27, the board and department did not have a specific timeline for further action on the proposal, Richmond said. Penalties in the proposed rule set the fine for first offenses for improper labeling at "not more than $100." Second and subsequent offenses would carry fines up to $200 each.

Growers and shippers outside New Jersey would still be able to use the words "local" and "locally grown," provided they designated the state on labels. Suggested language in the proposed rule includes: "Locally grown in Anystate" and "Locally produced in Anystate" with the actual state of origin to be inserted.
 
Aug. 3
Chefs see ‘local" sticking around

By Coral Beach, Staff Writer

Chefs have been tuned into the increasing demand for local food for years, naming it as a top trend in the National Restaurant Association"s annual survey since 2009 and pointing specifically to locally grown produce as the No. 2 trend for 2015. Responses from the 1,276 chefs in the online survey also indicate no slowing of the trend, with 22% of them naming local sourcing as the current culinary movement that will continue to be a hot menu item for the coming decade. Only environmental sustainability, which earned a nod from 42% of those surveyed, was selected by more chefs than local sourcing as the most likely enduring trend through 2025.

Nov. 9
Local food still tops trends

By Tom Karst, National Editor

The top restaurant menu trends for 2016 continue to run heavy to fresh and local foods. The National Restaurant Association"s "What"s Hot" culinary forecast, gleaned from a survey of 1,600 American Culinary Federation chefs, shows that local sourcing remains a top trend, according to a news release from the Washington, D.C.-based association. Local sourcing is the food trend that has grown the most over the past decade, 44% of chefs said in the survey.  

Nov. 9
Independent retailers boost organic, local

By Tom Karst, National Editor

Most independent grocers increased inventories of organic food items and locally grown food in the past year. According to the 2015 Independent Grocers Financial Survey by the National Grocers Association and FMS Inc., 72% of independent single-store or small-chain grocers increased organic stock-keeping units in 2015 compared with 2014.More than 60% of independent grocers increased the number of locally grown food SKUs compared with the previous year, according to the survey. More than two-thirds of independent grocers surveyed reported organic food sales increased in 2015, with 3.4% reporting a decrease in organic sales and 22.4% reporting no change. Independent grocers reported sales gains of 1.5% in fiscal year 2014, but food at-home inflation of 2.4% drove that growth for most of the grocers.The survey said 58% of independents reported growth below the level of inflation, up from 43% in 2013. Supercenters are the No. 1 competitive concern of independent grocers, according to the survey. The survey said 81% of stores polled have a Wal-Mart Supercenter in their direct market area in 2015, up from 78.8% in 2014. Produce sales accounted for 11% of total sales for independent grocers in 2014, up from 9.8% in 2013, according to the survey. Gross margins for produce for independent grocers averaged 33%, according to the survey, compared with the overall store margin of 26%

Dec. 14
Local"s a strong produce signifier

By Tom Karst, National Editor

American consumers value locally grown fruits and vegetables more than any other kind of locally sourced supermarket food, according to a new poll. A Harris Poll of 2,225 U.S. adults in mid-October found that 67% of Americans say it is important that they buy locally grown fresh produce. That"s higher than dairy products (56%), bakery items (55% ), deli food (43%) and frozen products (26%), according to a news release. The poll indicates 69% of all consumers believe local food supports the local economy and 68% believe local produce is fresher. Considering all types of local food purchases, the poll found that 50% of consumers say "local" is an important factor in purchasing decisions. Consumers surveyed ranked several factors ahead of "local" in purchasing decisions, including sugar content (69%), fat content (66%), sodium content (64%) and calorie count (64%). On the other hand, the importance of local is rated substantially higher than whether food items are organic (34%), according to the poll. The poll said grocery retailers (46%) and farmer"s markets (44%) are the top destinations for local purchases.

 
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