Local food and consumer trends

  From the October 22, 2018 issue of Agri-News
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 The demand for local food is increasing, and the latest Consumer’s Corner looks at trends for local food in the global and domestic markets with an emphasis on Alberta. Jeewani Fernando, provincial consumer market analyst with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF), takes a closer look at the study’s findings.

“We are seeing an increased demand for local foods,” says Fernando. “This trend is backed by a greater focus on healthy eating and consumers’ growing interest in knowing where their food comes from and how it is produced.”

In the global markets, Fernando says that when it comes to fresh food such as fruits and vegetables, fresh meats, seafood and eggs, local brands are the clear favourite. “For chilled or frozen products and packaged products, consumers do not worry much about where those are coming from. They are not looking for local brands in those categories.”

Fernando says that the situation with Canadian markets is similar to global markets. “Data shows that for fresh food like fruits, vegetables and dairy - milk, butter, cheese, and yogurt - consumers show a strong preference for local brands. Between 55 to 60 per cent of those surveyed preferred local brands.

“For frozen products and packaged foods, similar to the global market averages, the consumer’s preference for local brands is lower than for the fresh categories,” she notes. “Survey findings show less than a quarter of responders preferred local brands in these categories.”

With recent food research studies in retail and the food service sector in Alberta and with the existing data for direct marketing channels, data or information on three main market channels is now available to understand the local food market in the province.

Direct markets
This channel has been studied extensively by AF’s Explore Local group using a consumer survey every four years beginning in 2004. Says Fernando, “In the most recent study conducted in 2016, it was estimated that direct sales through farmers markets reached close to $925 million, which was a 27.7 per cent increase over the sales in 2012.”

Retail markets
This channel is studied using retail sales data of Alberta-made food through major retails channels in the province. “Total sales of Alberta-made food in the year ending February 2018 is worth $328 million,” explains Fernando. “These are only products with a Universal Product Code (UPC). This value could go up significantly if there is a way to include fresh food categories like fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meat, and so forth, which normally do not have a UPC. Alberta-made food shows an 11 per cent growth in sales over the previous year. The top three categories of Alberta-made food includes snack foods, milk products and eggs.”

Food services
“The value of local food used by the food service sector is estimated using a food service operator survey and was estimated at 1.06 billion in 2017,” she adds.

“This data shows that local food demand is increasing and becoming a more established mainstream market,” adds Fernando. “We believe that the market information that has been compiled in the latest Consumer’s Corner article is valuable for Alberta agri-food operators. It allows them to better understand the market and identify opportunities, aligning business strategies accordingly.”

Read the latest Consumer's Corner on local food. For more information, contact Jeewani Fernando at 780-415-9773.

Jeewani Fernando

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For more information about the content of this document, contact Jeewani Fernando.
This document is maintained by Christine Chomiak.
This information published to the web on October 17, 2018.