Savvy chefs already appreciate the appeal of locally sourced ingredients, but each year more consumers join their ranks and are hungry for more local tastes, according to an annual survey by management consulting firm A.T. Kearney.
“Local food has made the leap from a ‘hot’ consumer trend to a central growth driver for grocery retailers and restaurants,” the firm said.
“Consumers—especially women and young people—have come to expect not only high-quality local meat, seafood and produce, but also jams, ice cream and bread,” notes Randy Burt, a Kearney partner and coauthor of the study. “Forward-thinking retailers and restaurants with a distinctive definition of local and a focus on marketing and merchandising fresh, high-quality products at the right price will capture a long-term advantage in this growing market.”
What, exactly, qualifies as local? Some 96 percent of survey participants defined it as products grown or produced within a 100-mile radius of the point of sale. Last year only 58 percent of those surveyed defined local that way. Other definitions of local: grown or manufactured in the same state (65 percent), grown on an artisanal farm or produced by a small business (57 percent), natural or organic (44 percent) and grown or produced within 400 miles (42 percent).
More than three-quarters of those in the Kearney study said they would be willing to pay a premium of 10 percent or more for locally produced food, a slight increase from last year.
The A.T. Kearney survey also found that consumers associate “local” with “fresh,” with the latter representing the most important quality of any food they buy. “Local and fresh are closely related in the minds of customers,” the study notes, with “93 percent associate fresh with local.
“Stocking local items or placing local meals on the menu—particularly produce, meat, seafood and prepared foods—almost guarantees consumers will perceive a retailer or restaurant operator as offering fresh options.
These study results support predictions in this year’s National Restaurant Association “What’s Hot” forecast, in which 3 of the top 10 food trends involved local ingredients (locally sourced meat and seafood, locally grown produce and hyper-local sourcing in general). The message: If you're not devoting at least part of your menu to local ingredients, you're missing out.
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