There is growing interest among consumers in knowing the origin of the food they are buying. That is creating opportunities for some producers. But if you’re planning to compete in local food markets, be prepared. The bite can be more than a small grower can chew. That’s advice from a recent AURI market study of local foods.
There is strong demand for Minnesota grown foods, and small-scale direct marketing is flourishing. But when it comes to accessing larger wholesale outlets, the study found that supply, handling and pricing are significant barriers.
AURI surveyed farmers, grocers, foodservice management companies and wholesale distributors. The study, co-sponsored by Minnesota Farmers Union and released in June, describes demand, trends and markets for locally and sustainably produced foods. It also offers guidance to Minnesota farmers who want to pursue wholesale-food channels.
What’s needed to expand "local foods" markets is "a larger, more reliable and varied supply of product that meets today’s standards for post-harvest handling and food safety," says Dennis Timmerman, AURI project director in Marshall. Small and mid-size Minnesota farmers could gain access to mainstream distribution channels by pooling their farm products, raising specialty items for niche markets, and developing a memorable brand story, he says.
The full local foods study as well as an article about the report from Ag Innovation News can both be found at www.auri.org.