Aggregation and Distribution
Independent Grocers Assessment Released
The Supply and Demand Task Force published a study of opportunities and barriers for selling local food at independent grocery stores in Vermont (N = 73 retail stores)- Exploring the Next Frontier: Increasing Local Food Sales at Vermont's Independent Retailers. The project team was led by by Sona Desai (Intervale Center), Erin Roche, and Jane Kolodinsky (UVM Center for Rural Studies), and included the Vermont Retail and Grocers Association and two independent consultants, Annie Harlow and Clem Nilan.
The project was implemented in two phases: a statewide survey of independent retail stores and in-depth local food assessments with six stores. The survey revealed that a large percentage of independent retailers already carry local dairy, bakery, grocery, produce, beer, wine, and coffee products (Table 5). However, local coffee products (55%) were the only category of local products that exceed 50% of total revenue in that product category. Dairy products (47% of total revenue from local products), produce (46%), and prepared foods (42%) had the next highest percentages of total revenue from local products (Table 7).
The local foods assessment found that most stores carry between 2% and 8% raw products, with most of them found in the Produce, Dairy/Eggs, Meat/Seafood, and Grocery departments. Of raw foods, assessed stores stocked an average of 25% local products. That means that over 90% of the food products carried at independent retailers are processed. Local products ranged from 7% and 25% of the processed food total, with an average of 11%.
Larger stores cited lack of consistent supply as their greatest barrier to purchasing more local food, while smaller stores reported they need more consumer demand for local products. Owners/manager/buyers are very busy and are strapped for time. Many do not have the human resources to procure local products directly from producers or to research local products with distributors. Many buyers do not have the capacity or desire to work with multiple local vendors. Business management skills vary among independent store owners. Technical assistance providers should provide increased targeted technical assistance to producers on the basics of wholesaling and work to create a community of practice for retailers to share best practices for business management and for promoting local foods.
The results of this survey provide important information for addressing two goals of the Farm to Plate Strategic Plan:
- Goal 1: Consumption of Vermont-produced food by Vermonters and regional consumers will measurably increase.
- Goal 13: Local food will be available at all Vermont market outlets and increasingly available at regional, national, and international market outlets.
Funding for this project was provided by the Farm to Plate Network Fund.
Contact Sona Desai for more information.