Locally grown remains a critical component of sustainability.
“Consumers say local is a huge trigger for them, and they really look for it,” says Steve Lutz, senior vice president of insights and innovation at Category Partners, LLC, based in Idaho Falls, ID.
“If you look at what’s important to consumers, local almost always is at the top of the list. It supersedes organic. Some are aware of and concerned about food miles and carbon footprints, so sustainability issues come into play.”
But seasonality is an issue for consistency. “Eight months out of the year it’s tough, except for storage crops,” Lutz adds. “Retailers will look for ways to find continuity of supply for better local programs.”
Part of the solution is greenhouses or hothouses located close to stores or local distribution points.
While Tom Thompson, partner at Golden Sun Marketing in Mound, MN, sees maturity in the tomato hothouse space, he thinks there’s plenty of room for growth in lettuce and finds the possibilities for berries even more exciting.
Subziwalla, based in Tucker, GA, combines local and sustainable in a different way: the online grocer and delivery service provides shoppers with access to 4,000 Indian specialty items. Using algorithms to help forecast inventory needs, the company generally receives its perishables on the day of delivery.
This integrated approach has allowed the specialty e-tailer to keep food waste to under 5 percent, compared to the usual 30 to 40 percent of traditional grocery stores, according to cofounders Sajal Rohatgi and Manav Thaker. Subziwalla takes its commitment to sustainability a step further by collecting and reusing all of its shipping packages.
This is a multi-part series adapted from the January 2020 issue of Produce Blueprints, featuring a variety of experts predicting what will be top of mind in 2020.