Local food has gone mainstream

That is the opinion of Mike Schreiner, Vice President of Local Flavour Plus, an organization that links farmers using socially and environmentally sustainable practices with local buyers. He was speaking at the CFWF conference in Belleville this morning.

According to a study by Environics, 79% of central Ontarians prefer to buy local food, and 54% of Ontarians always check where their food comes from. Schreiner says consumers are looking for an “authentic food experience”, and he cites US grocery chain Whole Foods as an excellent example of this. In less than a decade, the retailer has become a $1.6 billion company, largely due to their exemplary marketing abilities. “They know how to tell a story,” says Schreiner.

Bob Desautel, owner of Arrow Neighbourhood Pub Group, is seeing the same demand for local food first hand. He is a local food pioneer, who has made a concerted effort over the last few years to feature local food and drink at his restaurants, especially the Woolwich Arms pub in Guelph ON, under the “Taste of Ontario” banner. He has seen a 1/3 increase in sales at the Woolwich Arms over the last two years, driven largely by consumers seeking local food.

“The future of food is memory, romance and trust”, says Schreiner, predicting continued growth in the popularity of locally grown food.

Schreiner and Desautel were participants in a panel discussion on local food at the Canadian Farm Writers conference this morning.

CFWF 2007 Conference photo album

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