I’ve written before about the local movement relative to fresh produce. USDA and others are careful to point out that locally grown food is not necessarily safer than food from farther away. But it seems consumers are not satisfied with government assurances about the safety of the food supply in general, and they like the greater ripeness that sourcing produce locally affords. In some respects, “Local” has become short-hand for “Safer” and "Better."
The trend is accelerating and taking on new meaning. QSR Magazine’s May 18 issue reported on Chipotle Mexican Grill’s move to source some of the produce used in its 800+ restaurants locally. The story reports that Chipotle:
“will expand its local produce program this summer, purchasing at least 35 percent of at least one bulk produce item in all of its restaurants from local farmers when it is seasonally available. This represents a 10 percent increase over last year's program, the first of its kind for any national restaurant chain.What’s new is that the trend toward knowing where our food comes from is extending beyond fresh produce to other categories. My bottle of Crystal Geyser is one example. Another is from last week's USA Today, which reported the launch of the Frito Lay’s campaign promoting the:
"Under its local produce program, Chipotle expects to have more than 25 local farms in its network that will supply some of the romaine lettuce, green bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, red onions and/or oregano served at the 860-plus Chipotle restaurants nationwide."
“80 local farmers from 27 states who grow the potatoes used to make its Lay’s potato chips. “Lay’s Local” is the brand’s biggest 2009 campaign, featuring 40,000 in-store displays customized for each state…Ads and regional store displays announce that the product is “locally in Texas.”At the same time, Atlantic Monthly’s current issue (May 2009) features a story about the trend to locally grown meat. Apparently, lamb is among the winners here. As Corby Kummer, an Atlantic senior editor and the curator of the food channel on theatlantic.com, reports:
“Lamb offers several advantages to the budding locavore. Sheep are easier to raise and require less pasture than cattle, so aside from poultry and pork, lamb is the local meat you’re likeliest to find from small farms.”What’s behind this drive to know the source of our food? Perceptions about safety and freshness are clearly part of the motivation. Sustainability and carbon footprint may also be factors. In today’s virtual world, interest in local sources may also be a quest for personal connection to a time and place.
Twitter can help smart marketers capitalize on this seemingly growing desire to know where our food is from, and get around the systems integration required to make real-time inventory information available online. Here are 3 steps for food marketers:
- Set yourself up on Twitter using your brand name and the relevant geography you serve.
- Tweet a few items that are new and / or particularly fresh or locally sourced each day, and where they're from.
- Invite people to contact you to find out if you have what they’re looking for.