How does locally sourced produce improve sustainability?
Locally sourced food has become an effective marketing strategy for a number of big retailers. It presents them with the opportunity to increase their sales, improve sustainability, provide consumers with the chance to buy better food and make a difference in their areas.
There are so many benefits to providing and eating locally sourced food it becomes clear that you should be doing so as often as you can. Recently, consumers have been demanding more local foods so it is a real chance for producers to capitalise on this.
Here we take a look at some of the main benefits of sourcing produce locally.
When consumers pick something off the supermarket shelf, it could have spent days being transported in lorries or aeroplanes and waiting in warehouses before that point. The only way that you know you’ll be avoiding this is by buying local and fresh produce.
When you’ve purchased something from a farm within your area, time spent transporting it is minimal. This means that your food is fresher, which results in better tasting food. As well as taste, shorter transport times mean that fewer nutrients are lost. When you eat locally sourced food, you are eating healthier.
Further to this, costs of delivery are lower when travel time is shorter. This makes it a benefit to firms looking to cut costs. There are also fewer uncertainties over when items will be delivered.
Weetabix is just one of the major food manufacturers pledging to use local ingredients in its food.
The breakfast giant has promised to source its wheat from farms within 50 miles of its factory, announcing that it will exclusively purchase wheat for its biscuits from two local wheat merchants, Gleadell and Fengrain.
Explaining the company’s decision, Hitesh Bhatia, ingredient purchasing manager at Weetabix, said: “If we’re to succeed in helping our consumers feel incredible inside, the quality of wheat inside Weetabix has to be incredible too. With the support of our growers as well as Gleadell and Fengrain I know that every single one of the 365 grains is top notch.”
Another big enterprise operating a sustainable business model is McCain. In its code of conduct, the firm said that it is “committed to sustainable growth, guided by our principles of integrity, quality, safety and social and environmental responsibility”.
McCain added that it will work “to enhance the quality of our products and services and preserving the quality of the environment wherever we operate”.
Waitrose has also capitalised on the interest in locally sourced food. The supermarket has established a Small Producers' Charter, which sets out its policy towards developing working relationships with potential suppliers.
The charter sets out the company’s approach to its supply chain for the benefit of small scale and regional producers. Waitrose said that it aims to source produce from the areas near to branches.
Sustainability is supported by businesses and consumers choosing locally sourced food. This is largely down to the fact local farms are often smaller than the industrial producers located further away.
When a farm is smaller, less damage is done to the environment and the economic benefit of their presence is felt by the local community.
Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming, said: “Unfortunately, by using pesticides, artificial fertilisers and other intensive farming techniques, industrialised agriculture in this country and across the world is damaging our life support systems – the water, soil, wildlife and climate we need to continue to feed ourselves.”
Deterioration in the quality of the soil and water, amongst other elements, will cause problems when farmers want to plant their next crops. This can cause issues further down the line, resulting in shortages of food.
Industrial farming is far less likely to produce organic food, which in turns means it will harm the environment. This is a significant reason why firms that buy their ingredients from local producers often see high sales figures. Consumers are becoming increasingly environmentally conscious and want to see less damage caused. Indeed, the number of people buying organic produce between 2006 and 2010 doubled to 30 per cent, according to the Institute of Grocery Distribution.
Growing produce in the right seasons also means that farming is more sustainable. The Eat Seasonably campaign has explained: “Growing fruit and veg in season requires lower levels of artificial inputs like heating, lighting, pesticides and fertilisers than at other times of the year. So seasonable produce has a lower environmental impact.”
So when companies are thinking about their sales strategies, locally sourced food should be considered.
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