Local food not a key purchase driver for majority

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 13th March 2009

As the debate about local food and the concept of food miles heats up in Australia, new research from Mintel shows that “buying local” still has many fans to earn in America.

According to Mintel’s exclusive consumer survey on local shopping, just one in six adults (17%) buy local products and services as often as possible. These ‘True Locals’ are willing to pay a higher price and they’ll even buy local if competitive products are better. This figure has been found to be closer to 27% in Britain, where the food miles began to take flight about a decade ago. Australia has only really joined in the debate in the past few years, meaning the figure here is more likely to be closer to that in America than the UK.

Mintel identified 30% of survey respondents as ‘Aspirational Locals’, who indicate they would purchase local goods and services but don’t know where to find them. And over a quarter of adults (27%) are ‘No Locals’, not caring where their food and services come from.

“We found that although the ‘buy local’ mantra has gotten strong media coverage and government support, most Americans haven’t yet incorporated it into their lifestyles,” Krista Faron, senior analyst at Mintel, said. “Nonetheless, local products offer unique benefits and are more accessible than ever before, so we think the local movement has relevance with today’s consumer.”

Mintel’s survey found that people who purchase local goods most frequently purchase food. Local fruits and vegetables are by far the most common: three in ten adults (31%) say they purchase them once a week or more. Approximately one in four shoppers buy local baked goods, meats or cheese/dairy products once a week or more.

“Local is becoming a desirable product claim, as people try to save money, support their communities and preserve the environment,” Ms Faron noted. “We found that over half of local shoppers are trying to help their local economy, but they also buy local products for convenience, better taste and the environment. Companies should use these motivations to craft marketing messages that appeal to locally conscious consumers.”

Mintel found 25-34 year olds and families with children to be the most zealous local shoppers.

In Australia, the push towards local has already been a focus for governments, with the WA Government introducing the ‘Buy West, Eat Best‘ intitiative and the SA Government launching a campaign promoting the state’s food to locals.

Coles, Australia’s second largest supermarket operator, has also reported strong consumer demand for knowledge of where their food comes from and local food, which has led to them introducing icons on their catalogues highlighting the state or region of production.