While in the past decade consumers have become increasingly interested in the concept of buying food that’s grown closer to home, some companies say that the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has led consumers to commit more to eating local for other reasons as well.
“Eating local is something that we’re very much seeing. There’s a very big emphasis on eating local,” says Jordan Grainger of Castellini Co. based in Newport, KY. “It started happening before the pandemic, but there’s also now more focus on supporting the local and smaller companies and family run businesses. Consumers want to try and drive and help support local businesses, especially in these times. They want to keep money in the local economy.”
Greater interest in local?
At the same time, throughout the peak of the pandemic, major news outlets—rightly or wrongly—have featured multiple headlines about challenges in the food supply systems and that could also be helping spur this interest from consumers. “People are certainly thinking more now about where their food comes from than they have before,” says Larry McIntosh of Peak of the Market in Winnipeg, Manitoba. “For many years, people have been interested in eating local and it’s only gotten bigger as things like food insecurity are talked about.”
While this is influencing where some consumers buy their groceries from, it’s also playing out on the foodservice side of the business. “In some cities or towns, people are also leaning more towards eating at their local restaurants rather than just at the big chains,” says Oscar Avila-Carrillo of Market Brothers LLC in Mansfield, OH. “Local restaurants are also bringing new twists to food compared to some chains.”