How sustainable beef and the ‘buy local’ movement make grocers greener

Foodservice has always been about satisfying the consumer. Over the last decade, the average customer’s palate has expanded beyond taste, portion sizes and nutrition to include larger, cultural expectations for food, like transparent sourcing and the sustainability of products like beef and other meats.

A supermarket or grocery store’s prepared foods department has the power to capitalize on these emerging trends by offering ready-made products that align with these changes to how consumers shop. Let’s look at sustainable beef and the “buy local” movement, and discuss how grocers can attract customers with, as well as show their support to, these trends.

Buy locally, serve locally
Drivers for the “Buy Local” movement range from the economic to environmental. According to The Huffington Post, for every $100 spent at independently owned businesses, $68 finds its way back into the local economy, $20 more than if you’d shopped at a larger retailer. Furthermore, if the products sourced by the independently owned business in question are also local, their effect on the environment is substantially less than if the products had been sourced from all over the world and transported by ground, air or sea in vehicles that produce greenhouse gases.

“Prepared foods departments should highlight local brands in their menus.”

To promote their companies, prepared foods departments should highlight local brands in their menus, bringing the issue directly to the consumer and positioning their businesses as proponents to the Buy Local movement. Moreover, investing in energy-efficient commercial cooking equipment adds to the environmental benefits buying locally offers.

What’s the beef about sustainability?
Raising cattle naturally produces a considerable amount of methane gas, which in many ways it far more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. For this reason and more, Americans have begun considering the sustainability of the companies within the beef industry as part of every trip to the grocery store.

Prepared food departments can be a point of engagement for the topic of sustainable beef and other foods as well. Free samples of sustainable brands are an excellent marketing tool that gives customers a first-hand experience with products they’re considering for their sustainability. Samples also provide a window of opportunity for knowledgeable prepared foods staff to talk one-on-one with customers, citing specific sustainable qualities the product brings to table, as well as other sustainable measures taken in the sample’s preparation.

Essentially, the more information the consumer receives as to locally sourced and sustainable goods within a supermarket or grocery store environment, the more likely they are to embrace their importance. A well-equipped prepared foods department can spearhead these marketing initiatives and demonstrate its company’s devotion to saving the planet and keeping small business alive. That said, grocery stores and supermarkets can’t just “talk the talk” – they must show their alignment with these trends in tangible ways.