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IRI: Demand for local has revolutionized perimeter marketing

Health, social status driving hyper-local demand

“The perimeter has undergone what we call a cataclysmic shift,” Senior Principal at IRI Chris DuBois said during yesterday’s “Top Trends in Fresh: Hyperlocalization” webinar. 

DuBois was referring to the metamorphosis of grocery shopping from a simple, ritualistic chore to an experiential, cultural endeavor.

“It’s important to distinguish between fads and trends,” he said. “Companies who get behind these trends grow more or sell faster than companies that don’t.”

One of those trends IRI believes companies should get behind is local produce.

“Food isn’t just a commodity to consumers [anymore],” said Dubois, who added that consumer expectations have changed: They want to know how products are grown and how animals were treated before landing on the butcher’s counter.

DuBois said that health is a significant concern when choosing produce and meats. IRI has found that 40% of people are aiming to eat better and 37% of shoppers place healthy food on the same plane as medicine when it comes to maintaining a sound body.

“More and more of what we’re hearing is people are buying organic because they think it’s going to be better for them,” he said, adding that buying organic or local selections also makes parents feel that they are providing a more wholesome food for their families.

However, the social aspect of locally sourced perimeter selections—and perhaps a bit of vanity—is driving the demand for specific types of products.

“Consumers are looking for things that are different,” said DuBois, who noted this was a phenomenon. “Social consumption is a really big part of part of what we’re seeing as the drive for local.”

Consumers want to be seen shopping at a farmers’ market or perhaps buying selections that clearly came from local farms at a traditional supermarket. They also want to be able to present food to guests as coming from a nearby source so that they can demonstrate a “social distinction or local knowledge.”

Rick Stein, VP of fresh foods for the Food Marketing Institute, agreed with DuBois, saying that consumers see local as originating from about 100 miles away from their current location. 

The government gives a 400-mile radius. However, winning the public’s business may require stores to accommodate society’s definition.

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