Report: Consumers have growing appetite for CSAs

Dive Brief:

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture released a study revealing that community supported agricultural models (CSAs) are growing substantially over the past several years, with the average number of shareholders in a CSA growing from 120 in 2012 to 141 in 2014, according to the USDA.
  • CSA managers surveyed in the report largely expect sales to grow, with 54% expecting an increase in sales and only 11% expecting a decline. 
  • This growth can be attributed to factors such as "new products, season extensions or year-around sales, scaling up through multi-farm partnerships, utilizing e-commerce, and connecting to new consumer segments" that are low-income or focused on health and wellness, according to the report. 

​Dive Insight:

There’s been a steady growth of community supported agriculture programs in recent years, and although this was once driven by organics and sustainable agriculture, it now represents a wide-range of produce. Tens of thousands of consumers have joined CSAs in recent years, and in some areas of the country, there is so much demand for fresh, locally-grown produce that there aren’t enough CSA farms to fill it.

As the "shop local" movement gains further momentum and CSAs capture more market share, these models could threaten traditional grocers, but they haven't posed too much of a problem yet. Major retailers like Kroger and natural and organic grocers like Sprouts and Whole Foods can offer more produce variety at cheaper prices, and have established credibility in the grocery space that shoppers trust.

Traditional supermarkets also deliver on a major consumer demand that CSAs can't: convenience. Shoppers may want to buy fresh, local produce, but they also need to stock up on dairy, packaged goods and protein for the week. It seems unlikely that many shoppers would be willing to make separate trips for produce each week, which helps protect traditional retailers' dominance in the produce space despite growth in CSAs. 

Still, consumer demand for local products shows no sign of slowing down, and CSAs have made impressive gains. It may be wise for grocers to partner with local growers or expand existing local offerings to stay a step ahead of this growing competitor. Retailers can also advertise these partnerships with in-store signage and websites that feature pictures, videos and more information about where ingredients are sourced.

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Filed Under: Grocery Policy
Top image credit: Maja Petric