- Earth Fare this week announced it is now carrying four different Seal the Seasons products in its stores all year round, according to a company release. Seal the Seasons partners with family farmers in North and South Carolina to freeze produce while it is in season and then delivers to stores throughout the year.
- Prior to this announcement, consumers only had access to local and regionally-grown fruit a few weeks a year when a crop was in season, according to the supplier.
- “Consumers can have great produce and at the same time we can help save our family farms by providing locally and regionally-grown produce to customers 365 days a year," Seal the Seasons founder Patrick Mateer said in the release. "We are excited to partner with Earth Fare to make this a reality across 10 states.”
The demand for local food is accelerating. According to Packaged Facts, local food sales in the U.S. jumped from $5 billion to $12 billion between 2008 and 2014. The U.S Department of Agriculture predicts the market value for locally produced food will hit $20 billion by 2019, outpacing the growth of the country’s total food and beverage sales.
A recent report from A.T. Kearney, meanwhile, suggests that nearly 80% of consumers are willing to pay 10% more for local food.
Earth Fare, which specializes in local products, gains another key differentiator with the Seal the Seasons line. That’s an important benefit as a growing number of major retailers jump into the local food space. The Produce Marketing Association reports that Walmart is the largest producer of locally sourced and sold produce in the country.
The jump into frozen produce may be a hard sell, though. According to NPR, the $53 billion-per-year frozen food business accounts for just 6% of total grocery store sales, with category sales flat or declining in recent years. Frozen options have simply had a hard time competing against the convenience of fresh, pre-made meals.
Frozen foods have also suffered from being viewed as less than fresh, but research published last year in the Journal of Food Composition and Analysis found that frozen produce is often more nutritious than fresh fruits and vegetables because fresh produce begins to lose vitamins once its refrigerated. There are also signs that the frozen foods category could be on the upswing, with companies introducing more creative dishes utilizing state-of-the-art freezing technology. Daily Harvest, a startup that delivers flash-frozen smoothies, soups and meals, is one example of the new face of frozen foods.
For Earth Fare to be successful with this new partnership, it needs to incorporate this "fresh" messaging in its marketing plan. It would also be wise to tout the goodwill behind the project. According to the press release, while demand for local food is on the rise, family farms are closing at an “unprecedented rate” — 21% have closed since 2000.