The demand for local foods will only increase in 2020 and beyond, according to Nielsen research. The company recently reported that 48% of consumers want local ingredients and food sourced and produced close to home. Consumers also favor fewer imports and low prices.
The stiff demands are not easy for food manufacturers and retailers to meet, but Nielsen said consumers will shop stores that comply and avoid those that don’t.
Whole Foods is one retailer that typically carries a large percentage of local foods. A group of food foragers recently spent time searching for local foods finding that Whole Foods carried more than 250 brands local to the states where they operate. Fresh Market takes a similar approach to keep plenty of regional brands available. Walmart also looks for local produce and other locally sourced products through a program that allows smaller suppliers to sell to the retail giant serving only a store or two. Walmart has said two-thirds of the items it sells in its stores are either made or grown and produced in the U.S., with much of that being grocery.
Nielsen said consumers will also demand more transparency about food sourcing. Consumers not only want to know the nutritional value but also there are increased interests in carbon footprints, corporate ethics and consumer engagement. Labels and ingredient transparency influence 48% of consumers who try or switch to new products, and 73% are willing to pay more for a product containing environmentally friendly and sustainable materials, Nielsen reported.
Walmart has had numerous sustainability initiatives around food transparency. In 2014, Walmart began sourcing frozen fish items from FishPeople that allow consumers the ability to trace their fish purchase back to those who caught it. Walmart said while a significant portion of the seafood Americans eat is caught by U.S. fish companies, the fish is exported overseas for processing, and then returned to the U.S. Fishpeople is an exception, with a turnkey, and traceable operation in the U.S.
Nielsen found 63% of consumers are already using or willing to use self-checkout with automatic payment tied to credit or debit card or mobile wallet. Nearly 60% are willing to use a mobile wallet app to speed up payment.
Walmart executive Steve Breen recently said during a talk in Bentonville that customer demands are always changing. He said consumers are time-starved but look for local, natural, organic brands with increased transparency. They also want more personalization in their shopping experiences and products.
“Our customers are busy, budget-sensitive and time-sensitive. If we waste their time, they will go somewhere else,” Breen said. “We want to be the best everyday low price retailer and if you shop consistently with us for a year, you will save money.”
Nielsen also found that nearly half of consumers are already using or willing to use delivery drones for their orders, as well as virtual assistants to purchase products on their behalf.