“We need to have better food labeling as far as origin,” Hodges says. “There’s just a lot of confusion on the part of the consumer on what’s local and what does local mean.”
Based on the responses, Hodges and Stevens used an economic model to project the financial impact of local purchases.
Altogether, it amounted to $8.31 billion annually, with retail grocers accounting for about $6 billion of that.
“This was one of the surprising findings,” he says of the retailers.
Local foods represented about 19 percent of the total food purchases for at-home consumption, or about $1,114 worth per Florida household annually. Surveys in other states have found about 5 percent of consumers buy local.
A direct-to-consumers perspective
The second study involved 10 focus groups totaling 93 adult consumers and six focus groups totaling 65 small-scale producers. It was part of an effort to assess specialty crop producers’ attitudes about the Florida MarketMaker program, which connects produce buyers and sellers.
Most of the producers were involved in direct-to-consumer sales, such as through farmers’ markets and farm stands.
Both sectors agree that they valued the social interactions created by buying local, De Jesus says.
Consumers, for example, say they like to learn from farmers how food is grown and learn of new uses for produce items. Producers say they like being able to hand out samples and recipes to consumers.
But the groups also disagreed on several points.
Members of the consumer focus groups, for example, say they found local foods almost non-existent and consisting of mostly trendy items. As a result, they aren’t making much effort to buy local.
The results from both studies highlight opportunities for a Fresh From Florida brand that would help alert consumers to locally grown produce, De Jesus says.
Learn more about how some companies are promoting Fresh From Florida by visiting our WEB EXTRA page.