The Business of Local Food, Between Back to The Roots and Resilience

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The Local Food Business is a fundamental trend that continues to conquer new adepts. Contemporary of the “Made in France”, the collaborative economy, new ways of working, veganism, fair trade, local food is a major component of an art of living that promotes social responsibility.

The birth of the concept of “local food” or “locavorism” is attributed to Jessica Prentice (1). Used for the first time on World Environment Day 2005 in San Francisco, the term “locavore”, now dedicated, nevertheless refers to consumption patterns far less innovative than traditional… Thus, our plates will never have had so much true, healthy, gourmet taste of our grandmothers’ recipes.

A locavore is above all a consumer who seeks to regain control of his diet. An avid “consumer better” enthusiast, he supplies himself with better quality products, in reduced quantities, and at the right price. It promotes the ideal of fair trade at the local level. Valuing the return to the roots, to local productions, local food covers several economic, social and environmental issues. Which are intrinsically linked.

In a world that celebrates progress, it is clear that the counter-current is possible. More than that, it makes the economy bend in many ways and now more than ever meets the alarmist forecasts long sulked.

Local food and locavore economy, what’s at stake?

The trend of local food is developing in response to different awareness, starting with excessive and unreasonable agri-food production. We no longer know the seasonality of the products, or even the place and climate necessary to grow a particular fruit or vegetable. Tomatoes blush in the greenhouse in winter in Spain or Morocco, pineapples come from Africa and Latin America with their kerosene cloud, wild salmon are hardly healthier than those of mountain farming.

The locavore economy seeks to reduce the costs of intermediaries by favouring direct selling. Reducing distances and steps reduces both the carbon footprint and the margins taken by intermediaries. The price of products then decreases, in an overall context that sees food expenditure rise instead. However, producers are more equally compensated for their work. This puts the social link between the producer and the consumer back at the heart of the exchange. Locavores therefore feel completely invested with local economic responsibility. Their approach to healthy eating is done in support of local producers and farmers.

On the other hand, this goes hand in hand with a rejection of overconsumption and food waste. In a context of depletion of resources, of a breathless Earth, unable to feed humanity, the locavores seek to restore balance. It starts by buying the necessary, consuming fresh, seasonal, and ideally organic products.

Motivated also by the economic crisis, local food is making a relay of growth, closer to people and reality. For the past fifteen years, in Gironde, and globally in all regions and departments of France, local initiatives have been taking place to organize the locavore economy.

Local food initiatives in Gironde to eat better

Between associations, companies involved, and local government operations, the local food business occupies an increasingly important field (2). This is evidenced by the map of local producers,which lists more than a hundred players in Bordeaux and the Bordeaux metropolitan area.

AMAP, associations for the maintenance of peasant agriculture, are among the oldest organizations for local trade. There were already 17 AMAP distribution networks in 2002. Today, they mesh the entire national territory.

In the same vein, Bordeaux has seen the flowering of various companies offering direct sales from producers to consumers, in delivery in points. Taking advantage of digital technology, they are organized according to various economic models, each seeking to find the most viable combination. Local food initiatives that appear to be long-term include:

– The Farmer Drive, which sells all types of food products;

The Hive that says Yes! created in 2011. It forms a distribution network of more than 1500 “ruches” or withdrawal points in France. There are 29 of them in the Bordeaux metropolis.

– Farmers and associate consumers, which since 2004 allows to order from producers and to pick up its baskets at the Utopia cinema in Bordeaux.

Les P’tits Cageots, which, more than a group of farmers, is directly the producer for a growing share of the products, mainly organic. Purchases are available online like a Drive, and it is possible to pick up your order in delivery or at the shop.

The Fresh Garden Basket,which offers surprise baskets depending on the availability of the products and seasonality.

The Compagnie Fermière,with its shops in Gradignan and Mérignac.

Locavorism reclaimed by traditional signs

Aware of the growing importance for consumers to consume local and quality, supermarkets have been multiplying and expanding their offerings in recent years. More organic shelves, local producer brands, fair trade products.

Thus, each brand creates its own “responsible” brand. Leclerc offers “Local Producers”, Casino “It comes from here”, Monoprix “Little Producers”, Carrefour “Reflets de France” and its initiative “Act for Food”… Other brands are also emerging within producers. Candia, for example, has been offering“Milk from my region”since 2011, in the middle of 7 other brands, including an organic. For their part, Carrefour and Leclerc are putting on the shelf“Consumers’ Milk”for milk at the right price for producers and consumers.

Valuing their brand image, it also responds to another consumer demand: the desire for every effort. Indeed, if the locavore economy develops, it is clear that no local food initiative allows at the moment to supply for the entire needs of the household. Thus, supermarkets rely on their lifelong advantage: the completeness of the offer. Everything in one place.

However, they struggle to defend another crucial dimension of locavorism: social bonding. Thus, they remain depersonalized and do not know how to erase their image as intermediate greedy. Despite a discourse for eating well and purchasing power, local and organic products are still 10-30% more expensive in store than directly from small producers and local initiatives.

Locavorism and health crisis: from the realization of forecasts…

In December 2016, a joint study by Blezat Consulting, Crédoc and Deloitte Sustainable Development on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture (3), focuses on trends and impacts of eating behaviours in 2025. In particular, it develops that the locavore trend will continue to make adepts. Among the first considerations: ethical issues, local employment, the rejection of an inequitable and dangerous globalization. Added to this is the agricultural crisis, that is, the search by producers for better recognition and appreciation; global warming induced by the conditions of mass production and transport of goods; anti-globalization trade agreements; and potential health crises.

This last point suddenly echoes the dramatic situation in which the world is currently in. Thus, the Coronavirus or COVID-19 crisis would be part of the triggers of a more developed and sophisticated local economy. To address food shortages and supply concerns, various initiatives are being put in place.

With this in mind, the New Aquitaine Region has put online a solidarity platform for the delivery of local products (4). Producers could register as early as Friday, March 27, 2020. The platform has been open since 31 March 2020. Its aim is to encourage short-circuit sales, to offer consumers the opportunity to source local, quality products, and delivered to their homes in this context that recommends not going out, allowing businesses to source supplies.

It remains to be seen whether this health crisis will give local food a long-term boost. Or if the awareness will be short-lived.

Candice CIBOIS – BORDEAUX Business

Sources:

(1) Poulot, Monique. “You said “locavore”? From the Invention of Locavorism in the United States,” For, 215-216, No. 3, 2012, 349-354.

(2) “How to buy local in Bordeaux?”, Papilles et Pupilles, February 2016

(3) Study commissioned under the Agri-Food Line Contract (Action No.36) by the Ministry of Agriculture, Agri-Food and Forestry, ANIA, CGAD, CGI, Coop de France, FCD and FranceAgriMer

(4) “Coronavirus – A Solidarity Platform for the Delivery of Local Products,” Enterprises in New Aquitaine, March 25, 2020

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