Progressive Grocer (India) - - Supply Chain -

Lo­cally sourced prod­ucts are an in­creas­ingly big draw for su­per­mar­kets, with sales grow­ing from $5 bil­lion to $12 bil­lion be­tween 2005 and 2014 and ex­pected to hit $20 bil­lion by 2019, ac­cord­ing to Rockville, Md.-based Pack­aged Facts. Cre­at­ing and man­ag­ing re­la­tion­ships — es­pe­cially the deliveries — with lo­cal pro­duc­ers can be cum­ber­some and time-con­sum­ing. One of the largest de­part­ments for lo­cal prod­ucts is the pro­duce depart­ment, and stores and dis­trib­u­tors are tak­ing sev­eral dif­fer­ent paths to make of­fer­ing th­ese prod­ucts eas­ier.

One method is to use ag­gre­ga­tors, or farm­ers’ ex­changes. The ag­gre­ga­tor serves as a cen­tral repos­i­tory for farm­ers to sell their pro­duce to, and for stores to buy the pro­duce from. Sev­eral stores across the coun­try are turn­ing to such busi­nesses to en­sure that they al­ways have the items they need in stock and aren’t re­ly­ing solely on one farmer’s crop to sup­ply their stores. “What we’re try­ing to do is to in­tro­duce as many op­por­tu­ni­ties and rev­enue streams as pos­si­ble for the farmer and for the store,” says Marty Travis, owner of Fair­bury, Ill.-based Spence Farm, a food ag­gre­ga­tor that sup­plies Har­vest Mar­ket, in Cham­paign, Ill., as well as more than 250 restau­rants in Chicago. Har­vest Mar­ket re­ceives a ship­ment once a week, and all billing is han­dled by Spence Farm.

Sourc­ing and billing are two of the largest pain points for the stores, which is where For­ager comes in. The startup, lo­cated in Port­land, Maine, has built a plat­form for both sides of the equa­tion: sup­pli­ers and gro­cers. It al­lows farm­ers to post what they have for sale, and stores to com­pare prices, see what’s avail­able, place items they want in shop­ping carts and make pur­chases. For­ager han­dles all of the billing and pay­ments, which helps re­duce time on the gro­cer’s end. Port­land Food Co-op, which uses the plat­form, has seen sales of lo­cal prod­ucts in­crease 11 per­cent; over­all, the store’s lo­cal sales have hit 40 per­cent.

Other stores have turned to host­ing farm­ers’ mar­kets to sat­isfy their cus­tomers’ need for lo­cal prod­ucts. Macey’s, Lin’s, Dan’s, Dick’s Mar­ket and Fresh Mar­ket in Utah host Eat Fresh, Eat Lo­cal farm­ers’ mar­kets in part­ner­ship with 26 lo­cal grow­ers. The farm­ers’ mar­ket, which runs from July 10 through the be­gin­ning of Septem­ber, is held on Satur­day morn­ings. Far­mview, in Madi­son, Ga., also hosts a farm­ers’ mar­ket on Satur­days. Brad Kelly, business devel­op­ment and farm op­er­a­tions man­ager for Far­mview, notes that the store was slightly con­cerned about pos­si­ble poach­ing of sales when it started the farm­ers’ mar­ket, as the store it­self is fo­cused mainly on sourc­ing lo­cal prod­ucts. “It’s been a draw,” he says. “If any­thing, it brings more traf­fic to the store.” Fur­ther, the farm­ers’-mar­ket ven­dors are typ­i­cally dif­fer­ent from those that sup­ply the store.

No mat­ter how gro­cers choose to bring lo­cal prod­ucts into the store, there’s no ques­tion that lo­cal is a draw. “Sixty-four per­cent of con­sumers will make a spe­cial trip to the store if they know their fa­vorite gro­cer has lo­cal pro­duce in sea­son,” says David Stone, founder of For­ager. “That per­son go­ing to the store to buy as­para­gus in as­para­gus sea­son — they’re more likely to put some­thing in the shop­ping bas­ket be­sides just that one item. It’s in­cum­bent upon the gro­cer to get as much high-qual­ity lo­cal pro­duce on the shelves as pos­si­ble and pro­mote it to the con­sumer.”

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