Finally -- Supermarkets Expand Local Produce Selection
August 26, 2008
Supermarkets are beginning to catch on that stocking just locally-grown corn and tomatoes is not enough for customers. Now they are competing with farm stands and farmers’ markets for a wider variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.
It’s been a boon for local farmers. In July, Wal-Mart announced that it plans to spend $400 million this year on locally grown produce, making it the largest player in that market.
Some independently owned, small-to-medium-size chains have been selling extensive lines of local seasonal fruits and vegetables for years, lines they are now expanding. However, for the largest supermarket chains, where for decades produce has meant truckloads transported from the West Coast, it’s not always easy to switch to the farmer down the road.
But soaring transportation costs, not to mention a growing customer preference for local food, have made it more attractive not just to supermarkets but to the agribusiness companies that supply them. Growers like Dole and Nunes have contracted with farmers in the East to grow products like broccoli and leafy greens that they used to ship from the West Coast. Because of fuel costs the cost of freight is now sometimes more than the cost of the products.