Local Sourcing — The Retail/Grocery Next Thing?

As a foodie and amateur chef, I'm thrilled to be alive in the time we live in. As a resident of downtown Chicago, I can buy fresh organic berries in the winter, imported "day-boat, line caught" fish from the Gulf of Mexico and even wild mushrooms almost any day of the week, at any time of the year. Talk about variety and abundance! At any time in history before now, I'd be forced to buy seasonal produce and other fresh items, trucked -- or carted -- in from no more than a few hundred miles. But now, something picked from around the world can make it to my kitchen table in a matter of days.

As great as this sounds, I've recently read -- and heard -- about rumblings about a return to local sourcing in the grocery and retail sector. One recent study of consumers in fact found the availability of "locally sourced" items to be as important as helpful staff when it comes on deciding where to shop.

According to the above-linked poll, when respondents were asked to name the factors that "most influence their grocery purchasing decisions aside from essentials such as location, price and range, some 28% of respondents ranked locally sourced goods as their first choice, while 26% cited friendly and helpful staff as key." And "when allowing more than one answer, the study found 72% named friendly and helpful staff among their top reasons for choice of supermarket. But this was closely followed by locally sourced goods at 64%. Among higher earners, this figure rose to 76%."

I'm guessing that the backlash against tainted imported products -- or at least the scare tactics which the media seems to be waging involving them -- are contributing to some of the demand and interest in locally sourced food items. But even if this is only part of the reason why demand for such products is growing, we can all learn a thing or two from the behavior of end consumers, who appreciate the perceived lower risk and higher quality of buying locally.

Jason Busch

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