BJ’s Wholesale Club is counting on the appeal of local produce to attract new customers. Its new Farm to Club program will add fresh fruit and vegetables from local farms to the retailer’s nearly 200 US stores over the summer of 2012. The program’s produce will come from in-state farms and be marked with a “Farm to Club, Locally Owned” sticker. BJ’s has already started the program at its Florida stores.
BJ’s is the latest retailer to recognize the importance of the locally grown food movement. Wal-Mart boosted its locally grown program in 2010, pledging to double its sales of locally grown produce of all produce it sells to 9 percent by 2015. (I wrote about the initiative in this Bizmology post.) In fact, the company surpassed this goal by early 2012, with nearly 11 percent sourced from local farms, as it recently told the US Senate Agriculture Committee.
Local foods have been embraced by consumers for several reasons. Consumers like the freshness and flavor of locally grown foods, supporting local farmers, and knowing the sources of their food. According to the US Grocery Shopper Trends 2011 report by the Food Marketing Institute, more than 90 percent of consumers buy local food at least occasionally, with 9 percent buying it whenever possible. And retailers are acting on the trend, with more than two thirds increasing the number of locally sourced items they carry, according to the report.
With the $470 billion US grocery industry expected to remain highly competitive, more local initiatives may be ordered up by grocers and their competitors such as BJ’s, as a way to better connect with the community and improve loyalty.