The definition of local food can be defined in many ways, but the most common definition is that of 100 miles. Is this 100-mile definition attainable for Canadian consumers? Are we only able to eat certain local foods, whereas others have to be imported from other countries or other far-off areas of our own large country?
Approximately half of the food Canadians consume crosses international borders. Is it possible then, for Canadians to achieve self-sufficiency through our own local food system?
This could be achieved if food is grown, processed and sold within the same region. Consumers are willing to pay more for local food. But, local food production is hard to execute, despite a relatively high level of consumer demand.
However, local food production supports local farmers, supports the local economy and reduces the distances food has to travel leading to higher quality and taste.
Some retailers such as Save On Foods are starting to pave the way towards the local food initiative in Western Canada.
Last week, Save On Foods opened up a new store in Sherwood Park, Alberta with a strong local emphasis. There will be displays featuring local foods from 22 Alberta food processors, including over 190 lines in total.
One such processor is Pure Indulgent Foods. This Calgary, AB based company introduced the hugely successful flats crackers. Consumers are willing to pay for these unique foods made with real ingredients sourced from local growers.
At Save On Foods, more than half of the 300 varieties of fresh vegetables and fruits come from family-operated farms in B.C. and Alberta. Also, the grocery chain carries fresh, local cheeses and over 85% of the bakery selection is produced in B.C. and Alberta. It also supplies 100% western Canadian beef, chicken and pork.
In order to continue to support the local food system, retailers should build strong relationships with local farmers and help develop supply chain infrastructure. Also, diversification of crops and improved distributor and retailer partnerships will further the initiative.
As Save On Foods has shown it is possible for a retailer to use local foods as a differentiator and to build an excellent assortment of local products that supports the local economy, creates excitement at retail and meets shopper needs. A great model to emulate across Canada!