Instore - August 2018 - 17
Local has always meant most at the retail grocery level when it refers
to fresh produce, says Neil Stern, a consultant with Chicago-based
But produce is far from the only department to feel its influence. "It has
relevance in each department, often for different reasons," Stern says.
"In deli, bakery and prepared foods, it signals fresher product -less
distance to travel -and, critically, local brand recognition and a sensitivity to tastes and preferences of the neighborhood."
Creating successful local programs for non-produce departments
can, however, be tricky, Stern says. "They face unique challenges.
Quality control is absolutely critical as is integrating into the supply
chain. And merchandising the cases in deli/prepared is not always
as easy as departments like produce, where you can create clearer
The definition of "local" has been evolving as companies seek to better
identify what it means, Stern says. "It went from regional to state to
mileage-based to footsteps in some cases," he says, referring to Whole
Foods putting a greenhouse on top of a store in Brooklyn, New York.
Even today, local still requires a "clean definition" and demands that
several questions concerning be answered, Stern says. Is it really
fresher? Is it good for the community? What exactly is its clear benefit?
"Simply being local is not enough anymore," he says.
That said, "local" as a trend hasn't peaked yet, Stern says, though it is
facing new hurdles. "How do you ensure quality control? Does it go
against efficiencies? Whole Foods has made it tougher for smaller and
local suppliers to get on the shelf as it looks to become more efficient."
Getting the word out
As the local trend as evolved, Dayton, Ohio-based grocery retailer
Dorothy Lane Market and its customers have become better at articulating just what "local" means, says Carrie Walters, Dorothy Lane's
"Most of our customers are a little more serious now," Walters says.
"Five years ago, they didn't really understand what was meant by local.
And we had to define it. It used to be more fluid, now it's more specific."
Did foods need to be grown or sourced in Ohio for Dorothy Lane to
count them as local, or did suppliers just over the state line in Indiana
also make the cut? The company settled on a three-hour radius -basically, if a food leaves its production source in the morning and can be
on a consumer's plate by lunch, it's local. As a result, Dorothy Lane can
now promote the offerings of one of its favorite chocolatiers for bakery
products, who's based in Indiana, as "local."
Walker's Fresh Foods sources many of its ingredients locally and also
benefits from customers who want to support a local business.
For Dorothy Lane, which has always sourced locally, the opening of
a Whole Foods Market near one of it stores was a wake-up call from a
marketing standpoint, Walters says. "We realized we needed to toot
our own horn. We had taken it for granted. Whole Foods isn't local at
all, and we've been doing it for 50 years. The presumption, though, was
that Whole Foods was more local."
On the marketing and merchandising side, Dorothy Lane spends
considerable time drawing attention to the local farmers and other
businesses that supply so much of its foods, particularly in the summer,
and showing shoppers where those suppliers are with the use of maps
- physical ones in stores, digital ones on the company's social media
pages. Dorothy Lane also puts up billboards on the sides of its stores
promoting its local grower and supplier partners.
As is the case for most retailers, fresh produce is the department at
Dorothy Lane where consumers typically feel the impact of local the
most. But Dorothy Lane also spotlights local in its prepared food offerings
whenever possible, Walters says. Early in the summer, for instance, you
can find Ohio-grown zucchini on the chain's Naples-style pizza. By August,
other pizzas are made using heirloom tomatoes from the Buckeye State.
In the deli case, meanwhile, consumers can find fresh corn salad made
with Ohio corn and an heirloom tomato salad made with locally grown
tomatoes. Pumpkin, squash, ramps and knob onions are among the
other locally grown items Dorothy Lane uses in its seasonal dishes, and
the list keeps growing every year, Walters says.
Sometimes, unfortunately, "local" can mean "limited," Walters says.
Ramps and knob onions are two examples. "Sometimes we're limited
by supply and have to pick and choose based on volume."
Dorothy Lane produces many of the items for its instore bakeries in
its stores, but the company also relies on local supplier partners for
product. In addition to the Indiana chocolatier, Dorothy Lane sources
instore * AUGUST 2018 * 17