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Walk through the produce section of Whole Foods and you’ll see on the signs, as prominently placed as any other information, the state of origin for its fruits and vegetables. With its Local Loan Producer Program, which provides roughly $10m in low-interest loans to independent growers, Whole Foods has made a bet that local foods are not just a passing fad in buying habits but indeed a new reality for the grocery business.
An A.T. Kearney study of shoppers’ local food buying habits bears out the optimism about the “locavore” movement. The study finds that local food is fast becoming a necessity for attracting and maintaining customers. A growing number of shoppers, seeking more sustainable foods and hoping to help the local economy, say that the availability of local food is an important factor in what they buy and where they buy it. And, importantly, more shoppers say that they think more highly of retailers that carry local food and have even considered switching retailers to find better local selections. For big-box retailers and other national chains, there is plenty of work to be done to incorporate local foods, as the market remains dominated by farmer’s markets and specialty retailers.
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