Blog: Chris Brook-CarterWe're a local shop, for local people

Chris Brook-Carter | 9 June 2006

It was only a small story on just-food yesterday (7 June) but given a feature we are going to run next week it struck a chord here.

Food Lion, the US subsidiary of Brussels-based Delhaize, has said that its stores in North Carolina will support local food producers and manufacturers with a 'got to be NC products' promotional campaign.

All 490 Food Lion outlets in the state will focus on building consumer awareness of local products, with NC goods featured in sales flyers, promotional literature, product displays, shelf tags and signs.

Keep your eyes peeled on just-food next week and you will see a report from our Japanese correspondent Michael Fitzpatrick on a similar move there - but on a much, much grander scale.

Japan's largest food retailer Aeon has been making a conscious effort to sell local produce since 2002 after a questionnaire it sent out to customers revealed a strong demand for local foods. In response to those demands, Aeon's Artisan Food Project was born. The revival of regional food in its outlets has now become one of the talking points of the Japanese food industry. Of the company’s 350 food stores, 300 now have Artisan corners selling 325 different items, including miso, soy sauce, fermented soybeans, and yam paste. Though Aeon declined to give sales details when contacted by just-food, it says sales have doubled since the project's launch in 2002.

All major retailers continue to look for a point of diference from one another. However, the overwhelming model at present is to fight it out on price. Big volumes, low margins - it's a trend food suppliers have been battling against for years. What makes Aeon's project so innovative is that production volumes and sales volumes play no part in the selection of Aeon's suppliers.

Is Food Lion's move another sign that this trend towards local and interesting produce is gathering momentum outside Japan? (It is already a growing trend in Italy) If so, the changing dynamic between supplier and retailer is going to be fascinating to watch - as is the reaction of the customer.

Chris Brook-Carter, group news editor and acting editor of just-food.com


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