In recent years, grocers have been keen to highlight the number of local offerings they sell. But one program has taken it upon itself to actually rate the “localness” of these products.
Three-and-a-half years ago, Meghan Dear launched Localize because she was frustrated with not being able to tell where the food she purchased came from. With the Localize program, products are accompanied by bright orange Localize labels that carry scores out of 10 for their “localness.” The scores are based on weighted ratings that emphasize location of production and ownership, source of ingredients and local sustainability.
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Dear piloted the program in 10 grocery stores in 2011. Today, Localize works with every co-op retail grocery store in Western Canada, as well as 600 producers with 10,000 products. And this past weekend it made its first foray into Ontario with a launch at The Big Carrot in Toronto. As part of the partnership with Big Carrot, Localize will be working with over 1,100 Ontario-made products from 116 Ontario-owned businesses.
“We really want to move into Eastern Canada, and because we have to collect so much information about products and producers, starting with this one store is a really important step,” explained Dear. “The aspiration is we can eventually expand and achieve the same success in Eastern Canada that we’ve seen in Western Canada”
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To help make that dream a reality, Dear knew she needed to have numbers to prove that consumers truly do love local. Dear worked with Serecon Consulting Group to help determine the success of the Localize program at Calgary Co-op. Serecon did an analysis on every product that bared a Localize label and compared sales against other products in its category in 23 Calgary Co-op stores.
“If we had a label on a local hot sauce, we would compare it against the entire hot sauce category,” explained Dear. “It was a bit of a scary process. We didn’t know what information would come back.”
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According to the results, after launching the Localize program in February 2013, Co-op’s sales of Localize products saw a category sales increase of over 9.5% and a gross profit increase of 14.7%. “We wanted to show that retailers succeed when they use this program because it drives sales and has a healthy profit margin,” explained Dear.
For Calgary Co-op, the study confirms the appreciation their customers have for local food options. “We were not surprised at all by the Serecon study or the positive sales response to the Localize program, as it is what our member owners expect from us and ask for,” said Ken Woo, Calgary Co-op’s VP , food centre operations and merchandising.
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