Independent Grocers go Local

In Ontario a handful of grocery stores stopped being part of a franchise so they can support local grown food from farmers in their communities. It’s great to see the grocers taking such a bold move and that their customers support them in the decision.

For his part, Peter Knipfel says he’s discovering more about what’s growing locally. At his store, he says grape tomato sales have tripled since the switch to a local producer.
“We are now a group of nine stores that probably have a little bit of buying power to buy larger quantities of local tomatoes, larger quantities of cucumbers from, say, some of the Mennonite farmers that are producing it at Elmira market, for example,” he says.

Mary Copp has shopped at Kropf’s store in Elora for 30 years. She says she noticed the changes immediately. “I think it’s great because we look for local, and you can get it here. You can’t get it at [chain-store rival] Zehrs … well, sometimes you can, but not as much.”

Shopper Linda Tompkins of Chesley agrees, “I don’t want food from some place else when we’ve got food right here. Support our farmers.”

Still, Warriner predicts that while that more consumers are asking for local produce, they will always be the minority. The University of Guelph professor says like organic produce, local will always be a niche market because mass production generally leads to cheaper prices.

Co-op members concede some of their wares are more expensive than those of the competition, but add that on average they are competitive. “We’re not saying we’re the cheapest but we’re certainly not the most expensive either,” says Knipfel.

Kropf adds that the ability to offer locally produced food is ultimately about quality first, price second.

Thanks go to Dan Harrison for the scoop!

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