With shoppers increasingly on the lookout for locally grown and produced food, regional suppliers are enjoying a resurgence in trade. But are you doing enough as a retailer to ensure you claim a fair share of the growing trend?
It's a subject that influences the behaviour of shoppers, according to HIM's Convenience Tracking Prog-ramme (CTP). Its findings show that well over half of shoppers questioned thought it was important that their local c-store stocked local produce, and 27% would shop there more often if locally produced products were available.
Many retailers have already latched onto the idea of stocking local produce for a number of reasons: creating a point of difference, keeping cash in the local area, better supplier relationships and helping to cut down on food miles.
Research commissioned by Food from Britain and conducted by food and drink body IGD clearly shows that an increasing number of shoppers are thinking about where their food comes from. The research, which asked 2,000 consumers for their views, shows that since March 2005 the percentage of shoppers claiming to buy local food and drink increased by 6%, with almost two-thirds of shoppers (65%) now buying local produce and a further 9% expressing an interest in buying if availability were to improve.
Food from Britain chief executive David McNair believes that while some retailers are benefiting from stocking local food, many more can boost sales by teaming up with local producers. He says: "This research gives us a clear indication that the work being done to promote awareness of regional foods is having an impact.
"The increased availability of regional foods is helping sales, but there are still big opportunities out there for producers and retailers."
The majority of shoppers surveyed rated fruit and vegetables as the key categories for local sourcing, although the research also revealed a greater demand for locally produced cooked meat and products such as pies, pasties, poultry and eggs. Purchases of specialist products including alcoholic and soft drinks as well as frozen desserts are also on the increase.
Top of the reasons for buying local is freshness (64%). This is closely followed by support for local producers (31%) and concern for the environment (25%). Other key factors include taste (20%) and quality, (16%). The research also showed there has been an increase of 14% in the number of shoppers aged 24-34 buying local food.
McNair adds: "These are exciting times for the country's small producers, but key to this success is to continue to provide access to those places selling local foods."

Key to table

? CTP average - all CTP retailers
? Independents average - ACS Direct, Booker Premier, Spar national independents, Londis
? Co-op average - Scotmid, (including Morning, Noon
& Night), Southern Co-op,
The Co-op Group (Welcome), United Co-op