Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

What does ‘local’ mean in the grocery store? Multiplicity in food retailers' perspectives on sourcing and marketing local foods

  • Jonnie B. Dunne (a1), Kimberlee J. Chambers (a1), Katlyn J. Giombolini (a1) and Sheridan A. Schlegel (a1)

Local food systems are comprised of networks of actors that work to ensure the sustainability of food supplies within communities. While local food has typically been promoted through direct marketing strategies such as farmers' markets and community-supported agriculture (CSA), retail stores are increasingly carrying and marketing local foods in response to consumer demand and market potential. Given the frequency with which consumers shop at grocery stores, as well as the portion of consumers' food purchases made at these locations, these stores may play a significant role in the success of local agriculture and the shaping of ideology about what is ‘local’. We conducted 27 semi-structured interviews with representatives of food retailers known to source and market local foods in the four major urban centers of Oregon's Willamette Valley. Our results reveal that grocers' perceptions of local food vary significantly from one another. Additionally, our results differed in comparison to the published literature on consumers' and producers' ideas of what constitutes local. Food retailers identified varying distances (frequently a region including several states) that they consider local, as well as diverse reasons for choosing to source and market local foods (most commonly supporting the local economy). Some trends in the variation of responses relate to how the size and form of ownership of the grocery stores influence the level at which decisions are made. These wide-ranging perceptions outline many of the realities of the local food movement, as well as opportunities for change.

Corresponding author
*Corresponding author:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

3P. Allen 1999. Reweaving the food security safety net: Mediating entitlement and entrepreneurship. Agriculture and Human Values 16(2):117129.

4K. Darby , M.T. Batte , S. Ernst , and B. Roe 2008. Decomposing local: a conjoint analysis of locally produced foods. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 90(2):476486.

5G. Stephenson and L. Lev 2007. Common support for local agriculture in two contrasting Oregon communities. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 19(4):210217.

6G. Sherriff 2009. Towards healthy local food: Issues in achieving just sustainability. Local Environment 14(1):7392.

7P. Jones , D. Comfort , and D. Hillier 2004. A case study of local food and its routes to market in the UK. British Food Journal 106(4):328335.

8B. Ilbery , D. Watts , S. Simpson , A. Gilg , and J. Little 2006. Mapping local foods: evidence from two English regions. British Food Journal 108(3):213.

12L. Nichol 2003. Local food production: Some implications for planning. Planning Theory and Practice 4(4):409427.

13B. Born and M. Purcell 2006. Avoiding the local trap: scale and food systems in planning research. Journal of Planning Education and Research 26(2):195.

14D. Coley , M. Howard , and M. Winter 2008. Local food, food miles and carbon emissions: a comparison of farm shop and mass distribution approaches. Food Policy 34(2):150155.

15G. Edwards-Jones , E.H. York , P. Cross , K. Plassmann , A. Hospido , B. Hounsome , N. Hounsome , C. Mila , G. Koerber , and M. Truninger 2008. Testing the assertion that ‘local food is best’: the challenges of an evidence-based approach. Trends in Food Science and Technology 19(5):265274.

16C.C. Hinrichs 2000. Embeddedness and local food systems: notes on two types of direct agricultural market. Journal of Rural Studies 16(3):295303.

18T. Selfa and J. Qazi 2005. Place, taste, or face-to-face? Understanding producer–consumer networks in ‘local’ food systems in Washington State. Agriculture and Human Values 22(4):451464.

19M. Winter 2003. Embeddedness, the new food economy and defensive localism. Journal of Rural Studies 19(1):2332.

20T. Macias 2008. Working toward a just, equitable, and local food system: the social impact of community-based agriculture. Social Science Quarterly 89(5):10861101.

22C.C. Hinrichs 2003. The practice and politics of food system localization. Journal of Rural Studies 19(1):3345.

23L.B. Delind 2006. Of bodies, place, and culture: re-situating local food. Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 19(2):121146.

24R. Feagan 2007. The place of food: mapping out the ‘local’ in local food systems. Progress in Human Geography 31(1):23.

25A. Guptill and J.L. Wilkins 2002. Buying into the food system: trends in food retailing in the US and implications for local foods. Agriculture and Human Values 19(1):3951.

26C. Morris and H. Buller 2003. The local food sector. British Food Journal 105(8):559566.

28M.K. Blake , J. Mellor , and L. Crane 2010. Buying local food: shopping practices, place, and consumption networks in defining food as ‘local’. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 100(2):409426.

30M. Winter 2003. Geographies of food: agro-food geographies making reconnections. Progress in Human Geography 27(4):505.

31D. Watts , B. Ilbery , and D. Maye 2005. Making reconnections in agro-food geography: Alternative systems of food provision. Progress in Human Geography 29(1):22.

33P. Allen , M. Fitz-Simmons , M. Goodman , and K. Warner 2003. Shifting plates in the agrifood landscape: The tectonics of alternative agrifood initiatives in California. Journal of Rural Studies 19(1):6175.

43A. Starr , A. Card , C. Benepe , G. Auld , D. Lamm , K. Smith , and K. Wilken 2003. Sustaining local agriculture barriers and opportunities to direct marketing between farms and restaurants in Colorado. Agriculture and Human Values 20(3):301321.

47T.A. Lyson and A.L. Raymer 2000. Stalking the Wily multinational: power and control in the US food system. Agriculture and Human Values 17(2):199208.

48M. Hendrickson , W.D. Heffernan , P.H. Howard , and J.B. Heffernan 2001. Consolidation in food retailing and dairy. British Food Journal 103(10):715728.

52G.W. Feenstra 2002. Creating space for sustainable food systems: lessons from the field. Agriculture and Human Values 19(2):99–106.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems
  • ISSN: 1742-1705
  • EISSN: 1742-1713
  • URL: /core/journals/renewable-agriculture-and-food-systems
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *