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04 Jan 2016

Research: Locally Produced Food Benefits from Positive Consumer Perceptions

Over the past years, locally produced food has benefited from a boost thanks to many factors. From issues of taste and quality to supporting the local economy and environment, local produce is perceived to have many positive qualities. Consumers, companies and government authorities have all demonstrated their enthusiasm for local produce. Given consumers' growing appetite for local food, this latest study highlights the impact of a local label on consumer perceptions.

This article by Aurélie Merle and Carolina Werle is the subject of the 20th  GEM LAB Executive Summaries.

From the article

Les effets de la mention d'origine géographique locale sur les perceptions alimentaires
Recherche et applications en marketing 1-18
Aurélie Merle, Catherine Herault- Fournier, Carolina Werle 2015

The authors of the study contributed to research on local produce by carrying out two studies with a total of 632 consumers in order to confirm two key concepts: 1) consumers perceive local produce as being healthier, tastier, more environmentally-friendly and supportive of local farmers, and 2) this perception increases a consumer's intention to purchase.

Local food perceived positively

The results of the study clearly confirm that consumers have positive perceptions of locally produced food. A label that identifies a product as being produced locally allows potential buyers to feel closer to the product. This feeling of closeness provides consumers with several positive ideas about the product: solidarity with the local economy (fewer intermediaries), qualitative production (tastier and healthier) and environmental benefits (shorter distances between the producer and the consumer).

However, the researchers underline the fact that this positive influence on consumers can also be counter-productive because a local label does not in and of itself prove a product's worth. Governmental authorities and organizations that wish to promote quality food should be aware of this distinction when they support efforts to encourage local produce.

From apples to cheese, can anything be local?

The authors highlight the importance of these results for local farmers as well as companies and regional authorities. In particular, they discuss the fact that, in addition to products which are typical to a region, this positive perception can apply to any produce that is congruent with the region. For example, one of the studies surveyed consumers on their perception of a locally produced apple versus an apple from a nearby region. Positive perceptions about the local product were present even though the apple is hardly typical to a specific region. This result is particularly important for local authorities who must promote many types of produce if they wish to support their local farmers.

Do you have to love or simply live in your region?

In either case, locally labeled produce has a positive influence on consumer intentions to purchase. The results of the study indicate that how strongly you identify with a region does not impact your perceptions of locally produced food.

While these results demonstrate the value of the local label, they also bring into question the validity of promoting local food simply because it is local. In other words, the researchers remind us of the fact that a local label benefits all products without distinction. As a result, the label does not always guarantee quality, taste or other environmental and economic factors.

Key Points

  • Consumers perceive food with a local label to be better in terms of taste, quality, the environment and the economy even when compared to food produced in nearby regions.
  • A local label increases a consumer's intention to purchase.
  • Despite perceptions, a local label does not always guarantee taste, quality or the impact on the environment and economy.
Mara Saviotti