As “local” has exploded as one of the top attributes consumers look for in all kinds of food — but especially produce — retailers and their customers have come up with widely varying definitions of what can be considered locally grown. It might mean food produced within a certain mile range, within the store’s home state, or even across an entire region.
Now some retailers are using a new criterion: how long it takes for produce to get from the field to the shelves. Fresh & Easy has recently been touting this approach with a guarantee of “Farm to Store in 48 hours or less” on certain items. Stickers displaying that promise also include the words “freshly picked on” with a date.
(Similarly, Fresh & Easy’s Wild Oats cage-free eggs are delivered within 72 hours and come stamped with a “laid on” date.)
Kings Food Markets has made this a core strategy for its summer local produce program for the past three years. The retailer promises customers that fruits and vegetables have been harvested and delivered to stores within 24 hours.
It’s easy to understand how this concept might resonate with customers. One reason consumers flock to farmers’ markets is the fact that produce generally is picked that morning or the night before, representing the pinnacle of freshness. Finding that same benefit at the supermarket comes with the added convenience of being able to shop any day of the week, rather than wait for a scheduled farmers’ market, and fulfill the rest of a shopping list in the same trip.
Some supermarkets may already have that kind of 24- to 48-hour turnaround for produce, especially during the local growing seasons. So why aren’t they telling their customers about it? Kings even boasts that its 24 Hour Just Picked Promise is “the only program of its kind.”
The takeaway from the examples of Fresh & Easy and Kings is twofold. First, if you’re already doing something that fits into current consumer trends, make sure your customer knows about it. In an age when people want to know more about where their food comes from, extra information for the consumer is rarely a bad thing.
Second, retailers know that customers are looking for “fresh” as much as they’re looking for “local.” Highlighting the time it takes to get from field to store hits on both characteristics in a way that a geographic designation can’t.
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