In natural foods, produce, meats, the deli-bakery, grocery and floral shops, Kroger’s Mid-Atlantic is expanding its supply of locally made products.
The customer demand for local products is growing, said
Susan Terry, natural foods sales manager. “We are listening to our customers, and they are telling us that they want to buy local.
“It’s a win-win situation,” she added. “When we carry local products, it’s good for the farmers, producers, the community, and, of course, Kroger.” The concept, she says, is like a community-focused market.
“At Kroger, we want to be recognized for supporting locally made products,” Terry continued. We know customers have pride in buying them because they want local farmers and producers to be successful.”
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is aware of the buy local movement and assists farmers and producers in getting their items ready for retail sale. “Consumers want to know where their food comes from,” said Elaine Lidholm, spokesperson for the Department. “Knowing the food comes from a local or regional source gives them a sense of comfort.”
The buy local movement has grown drastically in Virginia,” Lidholm said. “Consumers are concerned with freshness, safety, the environment and the economic factor. “They like knowing that the money they spend on these items stays at home when they buy locally.”
The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has regional marketing development specialists across the State to work with producers to facilitate selling their products to retailers. “We work with the people who grow apples, peaches, tomatoes, peanuts as well as those who produce dairy products, seafood and wines and much more to get their products in stores in the Commonwealth,” she added.
Kroger is constantly stocking more locally made products. Recently, Kroger began carrying Reginald’s Homemade Peanut Butter, based in Rockville, in some Virginia stores.
In North Carolina stores, Kroger will feature Nello’s Pasta’s Sauces, made in Raleigh beginning next month.
The Christmas trees sold at Kroger come from a farm near the Virginia-Tennessee border. Crown Orchard Apples, produced near Charlottesville, are now in most Mid-Atlantic stores.
In the popular area of natural foods, Kroger works with growers so their products not only are of the highest quality, but also so their prices are competitive, Terry said.
Kroger recently hired a produce specialist, Duane Myers, who travels the southeast working with producers to help them meet the needs of the stores. Myers meets with farmers and producers on site to help them prepare their products for Kroger.
“We need to inform and assist producers with more regulations, packing, and labeling standards,” said David Villanueva, produce and floral sales manager for the Mid-Atlantic Division. “Our goal is to help them succeed in what is a different environment for many of them.”
Producers often come to the Mid-Atlantic office in Roanoke to discuss their products, Terry says. “We are delighted to meet with them,” she says. “We discuss their ability to produce enough items for stores and distribution issues.” The Mid-Atlantic Division operates 120 stores in six states.
“After the product is ready, then we test it in their local market,” added Terry. “If there is demand, we add the product in additional stores, based on shelf space.”
Kroger has been stocking more local products than customers realized. “We are tagging local items in our stores and will be introducing new signage in stores to make it easier for our customers to identify locally made items,” said Terry.