The trend towards local is nothing new, but it did gain momentum during the pandemic as supply chain issues persisted and grocers looked to diversify their selection beyond national name brands.
Canadian Grocer asked grocers big and small to share their strategies for sourcing local products. Here's what they said:
Grant Daisley, senior local forager for Pacific Northwest and Canada, Whole Foods Market: “First and foremost, we’re looking for products that are free from the ingredients that are banned in our stores. Also, we’re looking to partner with suppliers that lead with innovation in flavours and trending ingredients, raise the bar on the transparency of ingredient sourcing, as well as brands that are exploring [sustainable] packaging options. We also prioritize mission-forward brands that give back to local and global communities”
Giancarlo Trimarchi, president, Vince's Market: “Our business strategy has always been to buy local first, when available. When we buy and sell local products, it helps to stimulate the local economy and promote sustainability. By sourcing products from local vendors, we can support small businesses and local farmers, who, in turn, can reinvest in the community. Additionally, local products often have a smaller carbon footprint as they require less transportation. By promoting local products, we are also able to connect with customers who prioritize buying local and sustainable products, helping to build brand loyalty and community support for our business.”
Kelly Herdin, consumer marketing manager, Federated Co-operatives Limited: “Local is weaved into our DNA and how we show up for Western Canadians. We serve our members in several business lines from food to fuel to agriculture, and we build community at each level of the value chain. As a result, we are positioned to support local growers, producers and ranchers with their operations in terms of advice and inputs, and on the manufacturing side with our store brands. We support local producers with our food and convenience stores to bring local products to our members. And, as a co-operative, the profits from these products go back to the communities we serve.”
Bruce Beacham, CEO, Goodness Me! Natural Food Market: “At Goodness Me! we believe in buying local. Why? It’s all about people. Getting to know and work and socialize within our community, getting to know our neighbours and, yes, developing friendships with wonderful people we can journey with through life. It’s easier to develop great relationships with people who live and work in proximity to us, which is why we reach out from each of our stores into our communities to include the healthy and delicious products that are often available from local folks. Our customers are delighted to know they are helping others in their local community.”
Mike Longo, chief merchandising officer, Longo's: “Longo’s has a ‘you can’t beat local’ approach so our guests get the best that Ontario has to offer. We have built long-standing, generational relationships with farmers and producers. In season, 75% of our produce is local and many items travel from farm to Longo’s within 24 hours. And, 100% of Longo’s chicken, turkey and pork is locally raised. We seek out and support local providers for items throughout our stores, including Longo’s-branded products. Additionally, our team members are very committed to the communities we serve, which is why we consistently contribute through charitable giving and volunteering.”
Darrell Jones, president, Pattison Food Group: “As a Western Canadian company, providing our customers with made in Canada products is a strength and a priority for the Pattison Food Group. For more than 50 years, Western Family has been our private-label brand and it plays a critical role in growing our selection of locally made products, while providing our customers with products they love at a great price without sacrificing quality. Carrying more than 2,500 locally made products from more than 2,000 local growers and producers, we continue to make every effort to work with Western Canadian, or Canadian suppliers first, to provide our customers with the made in Canada products they’re looking for.”
Shawn Linton, president, Farm Boy: “In 1981, when we opened our doors to our first store in Cornwall, Ontario, there was one goal in mind: to bring the community the freshest, local produce possible at the best value. To this day, local suppliers are still a key feature of our offerings for our customers at Farm Boy. From our fresh produce, to our Farm Boy Fan Faves like our Lemon Garlic Dressing, we are proud to continue to offer hundreds of quality, great value Ontario-made products for our customers, while offering a best-in class shopping experience.”
A version of this article was first featured in Canadian Grocer’s May issue.