The term local has become a quality distinction marker for food consumption as well as environmental causes, according to The Hartman Group Pulse Report called Consumer Understanding of Buying Local.
Food scares from tainted imports have also contributed to the movement as local products are believed by consumers to generally be of higher quality and more authentic than those items that are mass produced or imported from unknown shores. They are also thought to have traveled shorter distances, to be fresher and to have less pesticides.
Similarly many consumers think of buying local in geographic terms with items made or grown “within 100 miles” of them, in their own state or made somewhere in the United States.
However the report said: “National brands can use the notion of local to their advantage. In the food industry, there is a belief that you can only be local if you are a small and authentic local brand, but that isn’t necessarily true.
“There are many ways for a national name brand to be ‘local’ by, for instance, having limited edition and/or seasonal products. Another way could be a nutrition bar with an ingredient that is grown in a certain area that gives it better taste perceptions.”
One example of this is how the flavor of a locality can inspire a product. GSB Flavor Creators has recently launched a range of prickly pear products for beverages, confectionary and savory products, among others.
The prickly pear cactus grows with large and small spines and is found in abundance in the West and South Western United States, as well as in Mexico
The flavors were introduced as part of GSB’s “Flavors Around the Country” campaign to promote flavors native to different regions of the US.
Over three-quarters (77 percent) of consumers said that they were buying products they perceived to be locally made or produced.
In part the Hartman report said that the rationale behind support of local producers lay in a regional and national civic pride and a sense that “what’s good for the community is also good for me”.
For the majority of consumers the fascination with local products is about a return to values of simplicity, an equation of kindness with old-fashioned systems of hand production and the ability to match a product with a place or face.
It also found that local is quickly overtaking organic for many consumers, not just as a moniker for a healthier lifestyle, but as a way for consumers to indulge in gourmet food experiences.
The report said that simply stamping “locally owned”, “grown locally” or “made right here in Smallville USA” is not enough by itself. However, it remains an important marker to set products and brands apart from competitors.