Drive the growth of local and sustainable foods: We care about where our food comes from and the practices of our suppliers. Our goal is to buy from producers that we know and trust. This means buying from small, local producers, or else from co-op and fair trade producers.
Local and sustainable food sales are growing
Last year about half the products that we sold came from local and co-op producers, which is far above any other grocer. In fact, 100% of last year’s sales growth came from local, co-op, and WSM-produced products.
Several new producers drove the growth of our local sales last year. The chart below shows the ones with the biggest impact.
Our emphasis on local is paying off. Orange County is seeing improvements in our farm economy, as this infographic demonstrates.
Sales from co-op producers are growing
Two of our top four produce items—bananas and avocados—are from farmer co-ops that work through Equal Exchange. We
launched La Riojana fair trade wines in the United States, which are now sold in co-ops across the country. Many of our dairy products come from the farmer co-ops Organic Valley and Cabot Creamery.
We still have work to do
Owners sometimes give us feedback about products that don’t measure up to our standards in some way. This feedback helps us prioritize our efforts. It often takes a while, but we usually find a solution. In 2015, in response to concerns about employee benefits at Eden Foods, we found alternatives to their products and discontinued them. In 2016, we found a local alternative to Poland Springs water, which was objectionable because it was owned by Nestle.
Recently owners urged us to find an alternative to Driscoll berries, which some owners are boycotting due to grower practices. Local strawberries have only a five-week season, so we need to find creative ways to provide berries the rest of the year. We sell “winter berries,” which are grown in hoop houses in NC. We partner with Seal the Seasons to offer frozen local berries year around.
We know our owners rely on us to meet their shopping needs, and we don’t want shoppers to be unsure what they can buy this week. Until all of our products are local or co-op produced, we fill in with products from conventional producers. Being a place where the entire community can shop enables us to drive the growth of local and sustainable foods.