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 that 69% of all consumers believe local food supports the local economy and 68% believe local produce is fresher.
"While consumers appear to care more about purchasing locally grown fresh food compared to non-fresh food, this may be a result of the larger assortment of local options available in the fresh departments," Sherry Frey, senior vice president with The Nielsen Perishables Group, said in the release.
The prime position of local fruits and vegetables in the consumer poll makes sense, said Dick Spezzano, president of Spezzano Consulting Services, Monrovia, Calif.
"You have more of a chance of carrying local produce than anything else," Spezzano said. Fish, beef and pork are comparatively more difficult to source locally, he said.
In California, local produce is available year-round, he noted, while other states might only have several months of local fruits and vegetables.
Spezzano said several supermarkets have encouraged local growers to plant more acreage, which has accelerated the buy-local trend. Some supermarkets promote the identity of their growers, and in some cases put up signs that tell consumers exactly how far the farm is from that specific store.
The local produce message resonates with millennial consumers, Spezzano said. "It"s a heck of a marketing effort, but it is a true trend, too."
Considering all types of local food purchases, the poll found that 50% of consumers say "local" is an important factor in purchasing decisions.
Americans surveyed put a number of 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, trailed by farm stands (27%), big box retailers (18%) and club stores (16%). Other options reported include food cooperatives (8%), Community Supported Agriculture (5%) and an online (4%).