DALLAS — A company's position in the supply chain often determines its strategy in addressing the challenges of a globalized food industry. Supermarket retailers most often find themselves explaining globally sourced foods to their shoppers, while manufacturers actively seek out worldwide suppliers to create product, according to panelists speaking here at the Healthy Foods International Exposition and Conference.
Yet, both actions serve the same purpose: satisfying domestic consumer demand.
Bryan Roberts, global research director of London-based Planet Retail, noted that European retailers are extremely successful in creating a sense of authenticity with the products they sell. Many of them are local. He cited examples that ranged from a display of real honeycombs in a Swiss supermarket to an orderly pile of slaughtered piglets in the meat case of a food store in Spain.
“That's not for the squeamish, and I'm certain U.S. shoppers would be shocked at that display,” he said, “but the message it sends to customers there is ‘fresh, real, local.’”
The American consumer's desire for freshness and authenticity has caused U.S. manufacturers to reach out farther into the world in order to source the proper ingredients. While this might seem a contradiction, it's actually a necessary business strategy.
“My company is in Northern California, and we don't grow wheat there,” said Michael Girkout, president of Alvarado Street Bakery. “So it requires us to go many miles, in some cases thousands of miles, to get organic wheatberry for our breads.”
Girkout ships products as far away as Japan. “They feel it's important to bring this product that otherwise their customers couldn't get.”
Produce suppliers face similar pressures in order to fulfill demand, often bringing in stone fruit from Chile in the middle of winter, when the domestic growing season is long over.
“It's tough to get a local banana in Virginia, any time of year,” said Robert Verloop, vice president of marketing for Naturipe Farms. “It's a question of choice and demand. Our obligation is to satisfy demand.”