When ‘Local’ Makes It Big
WHEN Jessica Prentice, a food writer in the San Francisco Bay area, invented the term “locavore,” she didn’t have Lay’s potato chips in mind.
But never mind. On Tuesday, five potato farmers rang the bell of the New York Stock Exchange, kicking off a marketing campaign that is trying to position the nation’s best-selling brand of potato chips as local food.
Five different ads will highlight farmers who grow some of the two billion pounds of starchy chipping potatoes the Frito-Lay company uses each year. One is Steve Singleton, who tends 800 acres in Hastings, Fla.
“We grow potatoes in Florida, and Lays makes potato chips in Florida,” he says in the ad. “It’s a pretty good fit.”
Mr. Singleton’s ad and the other four will be shown only in the farmer’s home state. A national spot featuring all five potato farmers begins next week.
Frito-Lay is one of several big companies that, along with some large-scale farming concerns, are embracing a broad interpretation of what eating locally means. This mission creep has the original locavores choking on their yerba mate. But food executives who measure marketing budgets in the millions say they are mining the concept because consumers care more than ever about where their food comes from.“Local for us has two appeals,” said Aurora Gonzalez, director of public relations for Frito-Lay North America, which is owned by PepsiCo. “We are interested in quality and quickness because we want consumers to get the freshest product possible, but we have a fairly significant sustainability program, and local is part of that. We want to do business more efficiently, but do it in a more environmentally conscious way.”