As we get further into 2021 consumers, producers, processors and retailers are experiencing the continuation of the challenges from 2020. Although vaccines are being administered it appears this will take many months which is reality given the complexity and volume of work to do.
We know the pandemic has forced consumers to pause and they are thinking more about the stability and reliability of our food supply system. Although it has been a reality for a long time, consumers now seem to understand better that if they do not support local and Canadian products they will not be there when they need them. Seems obvious to people in the industry but it is now resonating with consumers which means it is higher priority for retailers.
There are a few reasons for the shift in consumer perception and more importantly consumer behaviour. Prior to March of 2020 I might have argued that local or even Canadian was not a strong enough point of differentiation on its own. I would have pushed you to tell me how local or Canadian makes the product better or different. My rationale was that consumers would say they support local but when they got to the shelf many other factors would take precedence during the buying decision. I do believe that has changed and they are looking for and most importantly buying more local and Canadian products.
Producers and processors around the world are struggling to deliver their products. Labour is a challenge everywhere and there are stories in the news all the time about food processing facilities being shut down or severely limited by virus outbreaks or simply lack of labour. Eventually these events show up as holes on the shelf and consumers then consider options and perhaps get introduced to local or Canadian products they might prefer, once they try them.
Retailers respond to consumer demand. In Canada right now retailers are responding to consumer demand for local and Canadian products. I would always give credit to Sobeys for their ongoing commitment to support local producers and processors. They have actively sought out products and made their store shelves available to approved suppliers. The program is not perfect and a spot on a Sobeys shelf does not guarantee success but it does open the door. We do see other retailers such as Co op and Save on Foods in western Canada with local sections in their stores. I understand other retailers are considering some form of local sourcing programs as well so stay tuned for that.
With consumer demand changing, other countries unable to supply products consistently and retailers looking for more products there is definitely an opportunity for more local and more Canadian.
Note I said opportunity, not guaranteed success!
The opportunity is to get exposure, distribution and shelf space. The opportunity will turn into success when you generate sales, which will keep the products on the shelf.
Now is the time to tell your story, explain why the products are different or better. Put the resources into educating store personnel and consumers about your products. Not just that they are local or Canadian but all of the other attributes that make your product appealing to your target market.
Build your online community while they are interested and have time to explore your offering. Develop relationships with loyal consumers and encourage them to be brand advocates in this competitive marketplace.
Local or Canadian will get you to the shelf, now you have to turn up the heat to take advantage of this shift in 2021. This opportunity could have a long-lasting impact on your business.
There will be challenges in 2021, as there were in 2020, the successful producers and processors will focus on the opportunities and benefit from an improved perception of local and Canadian products.
One thing I miss during the pandemic is the opportunity to travel, see what is happening out there in our industry, meet people and speak at events. We are fortunate many events have created virtual platforms where we still have the opportunity to connect. We will let you know some of these and where you can find me. There are some great conferences and events planned where I look forward to sharing some insights about how to get your products on the shelf and into the shopping cart.
One Wednesday January 20th I look forward to moderating a panel about geographical indicators. This is something (to be honest) I really did not understand but have done some research and there is a lot of potential. We will explore the concept and have some great experts lined up to introduce producers and processors to geographical indicators
On January 27th I will be in Saskatchewan, well not really but virtually. It has been great getting to know Roy and Jay at STEP. They have a showcase of Saskatchewan products lined up and I will be sharing some insights into 2021 food trends for producers and processors. We have a Q&A after the session.
At the end of the month I will continue west to B.C. where I am speaking at the Pacific Ag Show. I had the opportunity to be in Abbotsford a few years back and this is a great show. We have two sessions planned, one for greenhouse growers and one in the direct marketing segment. Lots of interesting insights to share for these two audiences to help producers and processors make the most of 2021.
If you have any questions about how to get your local products on the shelf or in the shopping cart you can always call me at (902) 489-2900 or send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.