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Grocers Strive to Stock Locally Sourced Food

Grocers are beginning to fill consumers’ increasing desire for locally sourced food via digital platforms.

E-commerce grocer Farmstead introduced a Local First program to recruit area food purveyors, reported Progressive Grocer (June 25). The San Francisco based company added several national brands such as Kraft Heinz to its inventory, but is now seeking more local vendors to maintain its balance of national and local items.

“National grocery chains are centralizing more, sourcing through only very large brands and distributors, and that’s cutting off distribution and access for local companies,” noted Pradeep Elankumaran, co-founder and CEO Farmstead. “Initially, Farmstead was completely known for locally sourced food, and that drew a lot of customers to us. It’s important to us to support local farming and food production, and our customers share that value. Even as we expand geographically, Farmstead will always feature the best local brands in each customer’s area.”

The grocer initially focused on locally sourcing its produce, then worked to make fresh food available to all and delivered free. Many of its customers use refill programs and purchase the same things every week.

Farmers and producers can apply to have their products carried by Farmstead. Additionally, within the company’s app, customers can recommend local brands to Farmstead to evaluate.

Meanwhile, Fairway Market began using a digital procurement system called Forager to source local food, reported Progressive Grocer (June 26).

“Many of our smaller suppliers — independent farms, for example — have traditionally used phone calls, fax or text messages for the ordering process,” said Jason Bidart, VP – private brand and local programs at New York-based Fairway Group Holdings Corp. “The Forager platform is far more efficient yet user-friendly, giving farmers the tools to provide Fairway with seamless ordering of their up-to-date products.”

Forager’s online and mobile platform digitizes and streamlines the procurement-to-payment process, saving time and costs for grocers. Currently, Fairway is using the Forager platform in its produce warehouse. Based on how well the trial goes, it will look into expanding its use of the platform into areas like cheese, nonperishables and wellness, according to Bidart.

Additionally, it is considering enabling stores to use Forager to manage orders to local supplies that delivery directly to its stores. “We’ve found that the Forager platform provides efficiencies that allow us to better market, price and promote our local food selection, allowing us to pass along its benefits to our customers,” said Bidart.

A recent Nielsen study emphasized the idea that people care about buying local, finding it had a high awareness among U.S. consumers at 46%. However, their definition of what local actually means depends on the product itself. Notably, consumers state that some products are local if they come from the same city. In other cases, products can be local within the same state and there are even products that Americans view as local just as long as they come from within the U.S.

Which products do consumers really care about buying local? Produce tops the list, with 58% of consumers stating buying local produce is important to them. Bakery, eggs and foodservice are important to the majority as well.

As food transparency becomes the industry standard, it will increasingly affect how consumers shop in the future.