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Decoding Demand for Local Food - Part 5 (Freshness)

April 27 Laura Ward



In our current series, Localize is exploring the underlying drivers behind local food preferences and the characteristics of local food that are grabbing the attention  and dollars of consumers.

So far, we've discussed:

How to give consumers what they want when there is no single definition of local

Whether local food systems are more environmentally friendly, and

How buying local impacts the local economy.

In this post, we are discussing Freshness as one of five underlying attributes that drives local product purchasing. 

According to an A.T Kearney survey in 2015, "93% of consumers associate local with “fresh,” the primary purchasing factor for grocery consumers."[1]

With less distance to travel, it makes sense that local foods maintain greater freshess than a synonoymous product sourced thousands of miles away. Rather than spending days or even weeks in cold storage transit, fruits and vegetables from local farmers have often been harvested within 24 to 48 hours before sale. This time difference between harvesting and consuming is important because the moment fresh fruits and vegetables are harvested, their nutritional quality and flavour starts to decay. Literally, your food starts to decompose (rot) after harvest — spoiling is an natural stage in the life cycle of all foods and the most nutritious and enjoyable time to consume is when picked ripe, well before your organics turn into organic waste.

With a shorter farm to table trek, locally produced and purchased foods should see a longer shelf-life after purchase than food which had to be harvested 1 or 2 weeks prior for transportation. As discussed in Part 2 of Decoding Demand for Local Food, locality also impacts the nutritional quality of our food — smaller operations focused on local distrubution end up saving their products from the abuse of shipping or industrial harvesting, more successfully maintaining freshness and nutritional integrity.

So in theory, locally sourced fruits and vegetables are more fresh and it is clear that freshness is one of the most potent motivators driving consumers to choose local over conventional, with 58% of consumers noting it as one of their primary reasons for buying local.[2]

If you've ever had the joy of eating a cherry tomato off the vine, you know you can taste the difference. Nothing beats vegetables fresh from the garden — and buying from a local farmer is sometimes the closest alternative for those without green thumbs.

Check out the rest of the series as we explore more underlying attributes that drive local product purchasing:

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[1] A.T. Kearney. October 2015.  Firmly Rooted, The Local Food Market Expands. Retreived on April 26, 2017.

[2] Region of Waterloo Publich Health. 2004. A fresh approach to Food: Local Food Buying in Waterloo Region. Retrieved on April 27, 2017, from: 


Categories: Defining Local Food

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