Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Supermarket Chains Narrow Their Sights

The trend deepens and broadens...
Supermarket Chains Narrow Their Sights - NYTimes.com: "Some independently owned, small-to-medium-size chains have been selling extensive lines of local seasonal fruits and vegetables for years, lines they are now expanding.

For the largest supermarket chains, though, where for decades produce has meant truckloads transported primarily from the West Coast, it’s not always easy to switch to the farmer down the road.

But soaring transportation costs, not to mention the cachet customers attach to local food, have made it more attractive not just to supermarkets but to the agribusiness companies that supply them.

Growers like Dole and Nunes have contracted with farmers in the East to grow products like broccoli and leafy greens that they used to ship from the West Coast. Because of fuel costs, in some instances the cost of freight is more than the cost of the products."
[...]
Hannaford Brothers, with 165 stores in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts, has always sold local produce, but in the last two years its customers have pushed it to offer more. “There’s been a 20 percent increase in sales” in the last year, said Michael Norton, a company spokesman. “Our research tells us consumers have about five or six reasons for wanting local: freshness and taste; keeping farmland in the community and having open spaces; a desire to be close to the food source and know where it comes from; support of local farmers and keeping money in the community. Embedded in all of this is concern about food safety. All this creates pretty powerful interest.”
Since the advent of modern grocery, retailers have dreamed of getting rid of produce altogether. Veg and fruit present all sorts of difficulties from a perspective of efficiency and cheapness, and what's more, the markup was minimal if not a net loss for the store. A shift in perspective on the part of the consumer could, perhaps, change all that. Local food has a cache and character that industrial food lacks. That added value, combined with higher transportation costs forcing retailers to source locally, might do communities a world of good. I might be accused of mercantilism or autarky, but our mantra, for everything from energy to broccoli, should be:

Shorten. The. Supply. Chain.

2 comments:

Raydancer said...

"autarky"...word of the day. An I had always thought that was what we et at Thansgivin'!

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