Innovation

Markets on Wheels: The New Food Truck Opportunity

Forget burgers and fries. Produce-selling vehicles are rolling into urban centres and remote areas bearing fresh food.

Written by Meagan Kashty for Canadian Grocer

Fresh. Healthy. Homegrown. You might not associate these words with food trucks €“ vehicles best known for their artery-clogging offerings.

But some CPGs and grocers are taking advantage of the food truck phenomenon to roll out marketing initiatives and put products right into shoppers’ hands.

Forget typical food truck fare like fresh-cut fries or tacos. Metro rolled its food truck across Quebec to high- light local produce, including eggplant, asparagus, raspberries and cauliflower from May to October. The initiative was part of its “La Grande Grande Tablée Metro” campaign.

The truck rolled through 10 food and music festivals, giving away samples of a featured recipe made using products from Quebec. Customers could also connect with local store owners and producers at each stop.

MORE QUEBEC: What Does it Take to Crack Quebec? »

The food truck was a way to create excitement about local products and store owners, says J. F. Couture, senior director of marketing for Metro in Quebec. And it will remain at the centre of Metro initiatives moving forward, he says. “[It] has become a tool that serves broader marketing and corporate purposes, not just sponsorship activations.”

Unilever’s Hellmann’s brand also jumped on board the food truck movement for the first time this past summer when it unveiled the Hellmann’s Real Food Truck at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto. The initiative was part of Hellmann’s “Real Food Movement,” a campaign centred around inspiring Canadian families to eat healthy.

MORE UNILEVER: Why Doing Good is Good for Business »

“We wanted to show how easy eating real could be while playing up the popularity of food trucks,” explains Alison Leung, marketing director of foods for Unilever. Customers lined up to receive “real food” samples from the truck. For instance: family-friendly, nutritious food such as Parmesan chicken, made with Hellmann’s mayonnaise, of course.

Aside from marketing tactics, food trucks are also being used to serve poor communities with less access to affordable groceries. Replicating the “Fresh Moves” concept created in Chicago, Toronto’s FoodShare has converted a decommissioned transit bus into a mobile produce market.

MORE HEALTHY FOOD: The Smart Way to Sell a Movement »

The bus sells fresh produce bought directly from the Ontario Food Terminal. “In the summer and fall, we source directly from local farmers,” says Afua Asantewaa, the Toronto program’s co-ordinator. Despite enthusiasm for the mobile market, now in its second year, it has had to scale back, to five from eight Toronto communities, due to a lack of funding.

But that hasn’t stopped other Canadian communities from giving it a go. “I got a call from a rural Ontario community just the other day,” says Asantewaa. “Quite a few people outside of Toronto, in more rural neighbourhoods, have a difficult time securing food€“especially in the winter.”

Market Mobile in Ottawa, a replica of Toronto’s mobile market, launched its six-month pilot project in July. Ottawa Public Health funded the initiative, while Loblaw’s Rideau Street store provides the produce at cost.

In Minneapolis, Twin Cities Mobile Market is taking the bus idea further by transforming a transit bus into a one-aisle grocery store for low-income areas, selling fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy and basic dry goods.

Whether used to promote local produce or get quality food into areas where it’s sparse, it’s clear some food trucks are steering in the right direction to connect consumers with healthy fare.

READ: Hot Niche: Food Trucks for Dogs? »

This article originally appeared in Canadian Grocer.

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com