Why Local Food?

October 16, 2008 07:00 PM
 

The following information is bonus material from Top Producer. It corresponds with the article, "Brand New Man” by Greg Vincent in the October 2008 issue.
 
Greg Vincent, Top Producer Editor
 
Local food is all about the experience and Leroy Shatto has had the experience of a lifetime since starting Shatto Milk Company five years ago.
 
"Consumers want to know where their food comes from and they're looking for authenticity in any brand they deal with,” says John January, sr. vice president and creative director in charge of the Shatto Milk Company account at Sullivan, Higdon and Sink, a Kansas City advertising agency. "Leroy has taken great advantage by opening up the farm and inviting people to come out and say, ‘this is the process, this is where your milk comes from.'”
 
This doesn't mean large farmers need to attend farmers markets or open their farms to tours, January says. However, they can make efforts to be more open about the process of producing food and showing consumers the impact they have up and down the food chain.
 
"Consumers tell us over and over, for multiple clients, ‘we're interested in the process.' I think opening up that process and making it less of a mystery is today more and more important.”   
 
In this age of constant media attention on all aspects of life and politics, food is front and center for focus. "Food is the most reported on item in the news, even in the midst of war,” says Kevin Murphy, owner of Food Chain Communications, a communications company focused on the food industry. "Food is a part of entertainment, people are actually looking at food for news worthiness. When you look at just food by itself in this country, we are very wealthy and affluent. It's not just the food it's the environment, the atmosphere, friends...food is the centerpiece for almost everything.”
 
Murphy says people have been conditioned to believe food needs to be "reworked” and the system needs to be more pristine. "Words like "local” and "organic” have become code words for safe or more pristine and healthier food.
 
"There are over 100 studies on organic and none of them show any nutritional benefit for a human that is statistically better for you than any other food. Yet, people go to the store and seek organic because they envision it's better for them.”
 
The decision to buy local becomes a very emotional issue for many consumers, Murphy says. That emotion is easily tapped into with a local message for companies like Shatto, and that is something larger companies need to evaluate and determine how they can capitalize on that.
 
"The message I would have for anybody,” Murphy says, "is you better start paying attention to the entire system in which the product is produced. You have to be able to tell the story of how the product is produced. Even if it's mundane to you, the world wants to know about it.”
 
 

 
 
You can e-mail Greg Vincent at gvincent@farmjournal.com.
 

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