As interest in local food has remained steady and strong. It’s also allowed for some confusion and even misleading claims about what is truly local. A young company in Canada may have figured out how to both help retailers better capitalize on the interest in local food, as well as help to maintain some integrity in this unregulated market. Called Localize, it's a platform that includes a product evaluation process and a shelf-labeling system.
Localize first evaluates individual food items to come up with a score showing just how local that product is, accounting for factors such as where ingredients were grown or processed, where the item was produced, how sustainability it was done, and who owns the product—meaning, do the profits stay within the local economy or do they benefit a distant parent company?
Localize then takes that score and integrates it into a shelf labeling system, so that consumers have the information in front of them while they shop—with a QR code they can scan with their phones if they want more details than what the shelf label provides.
So that’s what Localize does; how it works is just as simple. The company sells memberships to retailers, who then get access to the shelf labeling system for their stores. CEO Meghan Dear said it turns out there’s real incentive for participating, beyond the idealism of supporting local. One local retailer chain saw a quick jump in profits—with nearly a 10 percent increase in dollar sales—for the products it had labels for. “What we surmise is that when people have good access to information they trust, they buy more of those products,” she said.
Participating grocers have even been able to increase their prices—incrementally and by small amounts, say 1 or 2 percent—once the program is established, according to Dear, because people really come to value these local offerings. So far, Localize has seen the greatest impact in the grocery category. “The biggest jumps we see are in the center of the store—the packaged items,” she said.
Dear said that Localize is currently in more than 300 stores in Canada and expects a growth spurt soon with the sign-on of a large retailer, which will take that to over 1,000. The team is now actively exploring ways to expand to the U.S. They are focused on a few key areas around the country and are on the hunt for grocery partners. Dear said, “The big push is to find those organizations and companies that see value in what we’re doing and want to embrace it.”