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Create a '100 km Local Store' within the supermarket

I am building on several concepts related to food miles, product labelling, supermarket display, and the psychology of comparing yourself to others. Can we create a section inside the supermarket where all foods come from a 100 km zone? Like a store-within-a-store, you would find the local version of most things you need in the Local Store and you could see the food travel distance of your purchases on your receipt.

Photo of DeletedUser
21 20

Written by DeletedUser

I want to elaborate on the ideas of divided supermarkets (Lyndsey Fenton), travel food miles (John Jenkins), signaling (Luisa Acevedo), the transparency app (Louise Wilson), package labelling and rewards (Fiona Murray) and the baacode (Meena Kadri), and add a dash of the psychology behind the smiley faces that compare your household to your neighbours used by some electricity companies. 

Lyndsey advocated for an Australian section to supermarkets to differentiate from overseas products. I like this a lot but I think the distances that food travels in Australia are still huge. Within Queensland, bananas coming from Cairns travel 1,500 km to reach my local store. We have similar issues with distance in Canada. 

I'd like to advocate for a branded 'Local Store' inside supermarkets, where all food comes from within 100 km (or 250 km if 100km is too restrictive). In my supermarket, there are many products beyond vegetables and fruits that are produced nearby - jams, breads, dairy, etc. - and sit alongside products from far away. I can choose these local products, but it takes that extra bit of effort and often I just pick what I know, especially if I'm tired or rushed. If there were a Local Store inside my supermarket, I would start my shopping there first and go to the other sections only if I needed something I couldn't find in the Local Store. 

This could create opportunities for local companies to fill product gaps in the Local Store. Food companies with large centralized operations may complain that this model hurts their business. However, they could set up small factories/production lines in local areas, which would put their products inside the Local Store. Localizing production would help strengthen the local food supply in case of floods, cyclones, etc.

Then, because supermarkets know where the trucks arrive from, you could put each product's food travel distance on the shelf labels. Just keep it simple (no calculations of miles per item in the shipment), but I think most people - including me - don't know how far their food travels. We would need to decide if we display the distance that the final product travels from the factory to the supermarket or if we add up the distance of raw ingredients as well. I would like to see the total distance because it would encourage companies to use local suppliers for raw ingredients. But it may require some work in the background to compile the information, so it may be wise to start with the final travel distance.  

Lastly, on the receipt, next to the price of each item, the supermarket could display the food travel distance for each item, with a total and average distance at the bottom. You could easily see which products had the most miles. As a gentle indicator and to engage people's competitive spirit a bit, the supermarket could draw on their database of transactions, and compare your food travel distance with an store average. For example, I spent $105 and my average food travel distance was 83 km, where the average distance for a purchase between $100 and $110 was 150 km. 

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Making this work would take leadership and willpower within supermarkets, cooperation with food producers and manufacturers, some database work and support from customers. However, rearranging the supermarket isn't costly (as Louise said, some shops already have separate sections for organic or gluten free foods), and the data may already be available (or may need some tweaking to get it in the right place in the right way). It would be great to test it out in a store.



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Photo of Trenton DuVal

I like that this idea is sustainable in the sense that the stores add value to what they provide by participating. Just as you've pointed out that stores have specialized sections devoted to niche markets, the 100km would be its own marketing. Of course consumers would have to be educated, just as they were about organic, non-gmo and gluten-free food.

My only concern with this mode of integrating local food is that vendors can, and usually will, charge a premium for specialized products. I would hate to see local food included in supermarket offerings, only to have it priced out of the range of the bulk of consumers. This structure can make it especially hard for low-income consumers to have access to the "special" food. Perhaps the government could offer other incentives for markets, especially ones in low-income, inner-city communities, to include a 100km section.

Photo of Johan Löfström

Re: price issues. Let supply and demand be the judge of correct price levels. Now in my country, Sweden, the sales volumes for some organic brands are now getting so high that there is no price difference anymore.
I just found some organic, ecological, more locally harvested beans and chickpeas that was little bit cheaper than the regular ones, and these was also better packaged in cardboard box with simpler way to open.

So if you think it is a problem, just wait it out, it is only during start-up-faces, until enough of the "early-adaptors" change enough percentages on their shopping habits.

And as price on fossil fuels rises more and more : the old style of farming and food production will become more and more expensive, so it is mostly a matter of survival for many industries to adapt to Appropriate Technology.

Producers that know what the clients want are the winners. Those conservatives that stick to old habits and spit out the same old rubbish — will have to change, or die.

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DeletedUser

Great idea, Sarah. I really think you have hit the nail on the head. The best part is that you are utilizing an existing infrastructure and consumer base. Introducing more local options into a frequented grocery store = more local sales, simply because they become an option.

Apparently Walmart has begun to sell more local produce and includes an interesting "sustainability index," which might inform the mileage chart you mention: http://openideo.com/open/localfood/concepting/create-a-100-km-local-store-within-the-supermarket/ I think that if you were going to introduce something like that, it would definitely have to be total miles and perhaps should take even more into account. Just because something has been transported locally doesn't mean that it was produced in a sustainable manner.

I like the idea of a local section: super convenient if you want to only shop locally. However, if one isn't already familiar with the benefits of shopping locally, what is the draw to this section? It could be easy for me to simply blaze past it and continue on my familiar routine. What if, like at Whole Foods, the items were dispersed in the rest of the store and labeled in a bold way? That would introduce multiple opportunities to educate shoppers about the benefits and show that local doesn't only mean produce (e.g. one might be surprised to find local soaps).

As Adam mentions, the only trick would be convincing stores and consumers. I've convinced franchise owners to try and sell organic products... Most are game, will try it out, and will keep them stocked if they sell, even moderately. Suggesting is better than assuming it will never happen.

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Thanks for your ideas, Ryan. Yes, I agree that there are merits to dispersing well-labelled local items throughout the store and merits to collecting them together in a Local Store section.

There is considerable educational value in interspersing the local products throughout the store. As I said below, I think there could be various stages in rolling out a Local Store.

Also, I think certain layouts might appeal to different customer demographics. It would be great if supermarkets had some freedom to tailor their layouts to better meet their customers' needs/preferences. I think some consumer electronics stores do this - was it Best Buy? Circuit City? Can't remember.

It's really interesting to hear that Walmart is selling more local/sustainable produce. I feel that if Walmart is getting on the local food wagon, there may be a lot of potential to build momentum and push on the fly wheel (from Jim Collins' Good to Great).

Photo of Cory Quach

Ryan and Sarah - I've worked in retail for many years and the strategy we use in rolling out new ideas is to choose various test stores. By doing so we are able to understand different geographic and segment needs without over investing in a certain idea. Companies like Walmart test all the time. In fact - Walmart's local food movement is still in a bit of a test phase if I am correct. Great ideas!

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DeletedUser

Thanks, Lyndsey, Sina and Louise! And I agree with the call to re-think packaging. So much packaging - often plastic or polystyrene - is superfluous and unnecessary. I think this has grown up partly from convenience and partly from sanitation. Say, a store sells me a product which I put in a container from home. Later, my family gets sick. Where does the responsibility lie?

These are valid concerns for businesses and consumers, but I don't think they should lock us into a world of packaging with a very short 'useful' life. It would be worth looking to places today where shops don't use a lot of plastic packaging or look back at product packaging 60-100 years ago.

It's also important to remember that reliance on plastic packaging is a habit we can undo with some creativity. A small example is a supermarket chain in BC that eliminated plastic bags at the check out. They raised awareness, reminded people about the coming change for several months, gave out free fabric bags on certain days, and provided the option of paper bags. They also found that many customers used the plastic bags as garbage bags and were reluctant to buy garbage bags. To ease the transition, they provided a free box of biodegradable trash bags for every purchase over $60 for a couple of months. The supermarket's gestures of goodwill led to a fairly high use of fabric bags.

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DeletedUser

I love it! A similar idea: Aldi Supermarket sells their products straight from their packaging boxes and costumers can use those boxes to put their food in and transport it home.

Photo of Fi Murray

Love this idea...I can envisage it for sure. Agree it would be great to go into the big global chain supermarkets and see a local section just like you get the allergy, free range etc sections. Not just local veg and fruit but cakes and jams and more...Everyone would feel much better about spending money with these big brand supermarkets if they supported the local produce too.

Gets my vote :)

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DeletedUser

Thanks Fiona. I think we could be pleasantly surprised by the number of local products available in some supermarkets, which are currently hidden in plain view.

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DeletedUser

Nice! Perhaps in addition to miles traveled, food could be categorized (and perhaps labeled) according to the kilocalories required to produce and distribute the food to the retailer. I suggest kilocalories since some local food may have been produced with lots pesticides and other petroleum-based products.

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DeletedUser

Thanks Josh. Yes, I think it would be really helpful to give consumers more information. Not so that we have information overload, but enough so that we can make good decisions and understand the impacts. This assumes that people will care about the impact of our decisions, but I think most people do care but feel stymied by the opacity of information. I also think that the many excellent awareness building concepts shared in this challenge will connect people to their food so we would be more motivated to make good decisions.

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DeletedUser

I'm a big fan of your idea, but believe that first and foremost you would have to convince the decision makers within the supermarket industry that this would be a smart business decision. These stores now have organic and gluten free sections because there is a demand for these products; it would need to be proven that the same could be said for locally produced brands (I believe in certain markets this would definitely be the case, but not in all). In addition to the time and resources required to implement such a plan, creating a new section within a market would take away space currently occupied by products the industry already knows to be profitable. While I don't think those making the decisions for large supermarket chains are horrible people solely driven by a hunger for profits, at the end of the day you have to appeal to the bottom line. Best of luck throughout the rest of the process.

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Thanks for your important perspective, Adam. I agree, there has to be a business case in it for the supermarkets as well, as they need to maintain their businesses. We can't demonize supermarkets.

I think the concept could be rolled out in stages. First, local products are stocked within the normal layout, but well-labelled so they are easy to find (as Ryan suggests above). And then a small Local Store section could be started to determine customer demand. It could grow from there.

However, I know that often we as customers don't know what we want until we see/experience it. I read a quote from Henry Ford who said (and I'm paraphrasing) 'if I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse'. It would be great to see what the response would be if a supermarket ran a test for 2-3 months.

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DeletedUser

Agree with Meena... so much to like here!

One of the best things about this concept is that you'd give these local products a branded value-added that would make them more appealing to consumers. For many smaller-scale farms, production can often be more expensive than at large operation farms, and thus their products may be slightly more expensive (even though they're produced closer and have other environmental/social benefits).

By making it clear and easy for consumers to see that value (with a nice sign and special aisle or endcap) would give these products the extra bit of marketing needed to connect them with consumers.

Photo of Jennifer Tam

This idea would certainly help make my shopping experience quicker. Instead of having to go to each aisle of the grocery store to find my local item, it would all be in one section. I also like your idea of having the amount of mileage the food you have purchased has traveled printed on the receipt. I know for me, that would bring out my competitive spirit.

Photo of Meena Kadri

Lots to like here – including the discussion.
Love it when you guys get constructively & adoringly chatty.

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Love it. I can imagine that having this separate store would also really educate consumers about eating seasonally- since the whole produce section of this separate store would be seasonal, locally grown veggies and fruit. It's a little bit more like learning from osmosis than the seasonal food wheels approach.

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Great to see that your are bringing ideas together here Sarah. Definitely agree with you on the distribution of food in regards to its eco footprint. Also, packaging is an issue. Why can't we take our own containers into the supermarkets, especially for meat. For example , it seems a waste to have is wrapped for a short period of time, only to be unwrapped and put into containers for the freezer when you get home.

Photo of Sina Mossayeb

I agree. Good use of building on other ideas to come up with a nifty one!

Photo of Louise Wilson

Ditto Sina!

Photo of DeletedUser

DeletedUser

Great to see that your are bringing ideas together here Sarah. Definitely agree with you on the distribution of food in regards to its eco footprint. Also, packaging is an issue. Why can't we take our own containers into the supermarkets, especially for meat. For example , it seems a waste to have is wrapped for a short period of time, only to be unwrapped and put into containers for the freezer when you get home.