Research shows consumers like local food, but hurdles remain

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A new study asking consumers and food operators about locally sourced foods finds the terms are becoming more common, but pinning down a consistent definition of these terms is difficult.

Locally sourced The report, released by advertising agency Charleston|Orwig and the research firm Datassential, surveyed 2,741 consumers and 320 food operators to learn more about the “locally sourced” trend.

Findings show definitions of the term vary. While 27% of respondents say a national brand is considered local if sales help the local economy, the majority was more restrictive. According to the report, 58 percent of consumers say local ingredients must be used for a national brand to be considered locally sourced while 17 percent say a national brand can never be considered local.

The findings show the respondent’s age is an important factor as people define local. Younger respondents said locally sourced means items were produced between five and 15 miles from home. Older respondents were not as concerned with distance, but put an emphasis on ingredients supporting the local economy and produced on small farms.

With the definition of local food still fuzzy, the survey relates the term to decisions made at a restaurant. In the report, 82 percent of consumers say they are likely or somewhat likely to order something on the menu identified as locally sourced. Despite the interest, a majority of food operators (58 percent) don’t offer any locally sourced or farm-identified items. The report found university and college campuses were more likely to offer such items.

Despite the preference for local items, food safety, price, quality and a fresh supply were the top hurdles observed by consumers and food operators. Both groups agreed food safety is more important than using local ingredients.

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Thom Katt    
Midwest  |  May, 06, 2013 at 09:13 AM

When I first read of the "locavore" movement aobut 10 years ago, local was described as being produced within 25 miles of where it was offered for retail sale. Then the foodies realized that millions of people in Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago and dozens of other metropolitan areas would never be able to buy local food since the cities preculde any significant food production for distances well over 25 miles. Next thing I know, the foodies extended the qualifying distance to 50 miles. Not long after, it became 100 miles. Of course that excluded things like organge juice for U.S. consumers anywhere but southern Florida, parts of Texas, Arizona and part of California. It excludes coffee, and tea anywhere in the U.S And it deprives consumers of hundreds of other common foods because they aren't grown here. Solution? foodies change the definition of local again. Now it has to benefit the local economy. Sounds hypocritical to me.

OH  |  May, 06, 2013 at 09:15 PM

It sounds hypocritical because it is.

PA  |  May, 08, 2013 at 08:41 AM

"Local" is whatever anyone wants it to be in the moment. It's called "moving the goalposts". That's the only way loopy activists can keep their blissful ignorance flowing. They proudly call that "sustainable". All one giant load of organic fertilizer piled on high and deep.

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