( Courtesy Markus Spiske on Unsplash )

A new survey published by Forager reveals that 29% of consumers want to eat more sustainably.

Forager, a cloud-based platform connecting growers with local grocers, surveyed 500 U.S. adults in early January through the AYTM online research service, according to a news release.


The survey found that, when asked “The role of food in our lives is changing. In thinking about this, which of these is important to you?”:

  • 86% of consumers polled want to eat healthier;
  • 41% want to eat more local food;
  • 29% want to eat more sustainably; and 
  • 7%: replied none of the above.
  • However, the study found that consumers generally valued local food for reasons not related to sustainability. 

In responding to the question “What is the most important reason you buy local food?” the study found:

  • 41%: support local farmers and producers;
  • 39%: local food was more nutritious and higher quality;
  • 11%: local food was more sustainable and had a lower carbon footprint;
  • 5%: help favorite grocer stay in business; and 
  • 4%: none of the above.

Still, the study made a case that retailers have plenty of incentive to boost local food offerings, especially fresh produce. Three out of four consumers indicated they buy local food throughout the year.
Responding to the question, “Which types of local food would you likely buy more of?” responses were:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables: 91%;
  • Meat: 56%; 
  • Dairy: 52%;
  • Fish: 40%;
  • Packaged goods: 33%;
  • Wellness products and supplements: 26%; and
  • None of the above: 4%.

“As large conventional grocers think about how to compete with independents who are winning consumer loyalty, and as small grocers work to make assortment and experience strong enough to offset growing demand for convenience, local fresh food has the greatest potential to meet consumer demands and drive foot traffic, loyalty and sales,” the report said.

Most consumers indicated that they will pay at least some premium for local food.

Responding to the question “Up to how much more would you will willing to pay for local food if it were available to purchase where you shop,” consumers said:

  • 5% premium: 34%;
  • 10% premium: 29%;
  • 20% premium: 9%;
  • Over 20%: 4%; and
  • Not willing to pay more: 23%.

Winter months now allow increased purchases of local food, according to the report, noting the expansion of vertical farming and season-extending innovations for open-field production.

“(Consumers) are waiting to be enticed into new grocer relationships by those who capitalize on the expanding availability of local foods in ‘off-season’ periods such as winter,” the study said. 

“Consumers are willing to pay more to get the best, most local fresh food available.”

Responding to the question “How likely would you be to buy more local food if more was available during the winter months?” the survey found:

  • 45%: very likely;
  • 48%: likely; and
  • 7%: not likely.

Most of those surveyed said they were satisfied with local food offerings where they shopped. In answering the question “How satisfied are you with the quality and availability of local food at your regular grocery store?” shoppers said:

  • 27%: very satisfied;
  • 58%: generally satisfied; and
  • 14%: not satisfied.

Answering the question, “How likely are you to shop at a different grocer than your regular one if they have local food more widely available?” the responses were:

  • 32%: very likely;
  • 48%: likely;
  • 20%: not likely.

However, the study said that consumers indicated a majority will change store loyalties to get the type of products they want.

“As consumer preferences intensify and competition challenges grocers even further, the attraction of expanding local will draw in more grocers,” the study said. 

“This will disrupt competitive dynamics and unleash the full impact on sales and loyalty as consumers seek out products to fit their evolving diet priorities.” 

To find the latest on sustainable food systems and conservation ag, visit AgWeb.com/ACAM.