If you’re looking for the next organic on a broad scale, better to look for local. It is a subject that has become so appealing to consumers that in some ways it is surpassing the popularity of organics.
The authenticity halo around organic has begun to fade, and local foods, beverages and products are poised to surpass them as a symbol of trust and transparency. The Hartman Group’s research continues to find that local is no longer merely a bridge between organic and natural; local now speaks to consumer desires for a food system with integrity.
With its connotations of community, economy and environmental stewardship, local offers compelling narratives that include small-scale production and closer, reciprocal relationships with producers. These authentic stories have become a major part of the shopping, cooking and eating experience for consumers — a key aspect of the movement toward fresh, less processed food. Although some local products may carry prices that put them out of reach for some people, all consumers are turning toward local to help them resolve their confusion and uncertainty surrounding organic and the claims of the organic marketplace.
People believe in the integrity of local producers and local farmers, seeing them as deeply invested in the quality of their products. Their trust is bolstered by the proximity of local sources, which translates into shorter distances travelled – and greater freshness with a smaller carbon footprint. They like keeping their money in the community and the idea that they are eating food that’s in season and using products made from and created in their environment.
“Locally is important to me,” the honour of a locally supplied veg store told me. “It’s about building a relationship. Asking local farmers about their practices is better than what the government and big suppliers can tell me.”
That faith in a personal – or at least closer – relationship with the people growing their food contrasts with an organic industry that has grown so big. Its products are both easy to find and easy to doubt where local is quite the opposite.
A whopping 73 percent of consumers now buy organics, and more than a third use them at least monthly. But consumers question the ability of big companies to do organic “right.” Part of their concern comes from seeing highly processed foods that some consider “junk food” bearing the organic label. They wonder whether these companies share their values or are diluting the spirit of organics.
People also worry that corporate interests are weakening standards and wonder whether the resources are there to verify and enforce certification in such a rapidly expanding arena.
You can rely on the people in your community to grow and make their products responsibly and if posable organically giving you the best of both worlds.