Haworth College of Business NewsLocal Groceries—Here to Stay

On the heels of the 2013 WMU Food Marketing Conference, we checked in with our in-house experts on the hottest topic of the food consumer package goods industry—local products.

“Research indicates that this trend is here to stay and that consumers will pay premium for local products,” says Phil Straniero, executive-in-residence of Haworth’s food and consumer package goods marketing program.

Photo of case team under NGA signA survey done by AT Kearny to determine the motivations of shoppers to buy local foods and the strengths and weaknesses regarding local foods in retailers, found that over half of shoppers like to buy local foods because they find it to be healthier and believe that they’re helping the local economy.

The good news is that local foods are getting easier to find. Farmers markets are becoming mainstays in communities and independent super markets are placing more of an emphasis on local foods, providing customers with items such as dairy, meat and produce. Straniero says that even large chain grocers are starting to incorporate locally sourced foods in their product assortment.

Echoing the importance of local products, senior Holly Evey says understanding industry trends was the goal of a recent student trip to the National Grocers Association’s annual convention in Las Vegas. While there, Evey says she and fellow students explored the local trend by attending sessions and spending one-on-one time with industry mentors.

Photo of students in Las VegasDuring a 2-hour mentor session with Carole Bitter, president of Friedman’s Markets, Evey was able to glean insights by discussing exhibit floor presentations and conference session summaries with industry mentors. The mentors provided knowledge about food trends and consumer engagement practices. The salient point for Evey: that the local trend impacts the big companies more than she realized.

“Our mentors helped us connect how local food trends are impacting all types of marketing—advertising, public relations and especially mobile,” say Evey. She cites large grocery chains are not only embracing local purchasing, but hosting farmers markets in their stores and on their properties, as one insight she gained. Understanding how a large company can act locally was a significant point.

So is this local focus a trend or is it here to stay? “As a food industry educator, consultant and corporate board member, I believe that the continued focus on locally produced foods will result in many positive impacts in the areas of commerce, health and community involvement for years to come, says Frank Gambino, professor of marketing and director of the food and consumer goods marketing program.

During the convention, twelve food and consumer package goods marketing students participated in a national case competition. A team of four WMU students was selected to work with Chiefs Supermarkets in Ohio to help them develop a strategy to grow their market share while enhancing the shopping experience.  The students created a number of unique techniques to engage shoppers within the store with coupon and mobile phone applications and other technology innovations, to encourage product collaboration, such as purchasing local products produced and sold in Chief’s stores.