IN TOUCH : Local is Hot

From China to Scotland, local is the hottest topic in international food right now. Hot enough for both European and US government agencies to fund local food marketing initiatives and for farmers’ markets to move from being romantic tourist destinations in ancient European villages to faraway countries like New Zealand.
It is not just foodies who are driving this phenomenon, but also regular suburban shoppers who frequent supermarkets. The latest research from Canada shows that 78 percent of consumers want to know where their food is grown and 96 percent believe that ‘healthy’ equates to local produce.
“Americans are more interested in food and agriculture than at any other time since most families left the farm,” said US deputy agriculture secretary Kathleen Merrigan in announcing the ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ initiative on which the US Department of Agriculture is spending US$65 million in 2010 promoting regional food sources and farmers’ markets.
To increase the appreciation and consumption of New Zealand’s regional food resources, Mediaweb, publisher of food industry publications grill and FMCG as well as NZ Management, has launched Regional Fare campaign.
It will gather information for comprehensive regional and national databases on locally produced food and beverage resources. The campaign will be backed by nationwide branding programme – the Taste Of New Zealand Awards (TONZA) – which will direct visitors as well as local diners to those cafes, bars, restaurants, hotels and lodges that are supporting local producers by presenting their food and beverage products in the best possible light.
A panel of independent industry representatives will determine whether an establishment is eligible for TONZA and, if so, it will be categorised as either ‘Good’ or ‘Excellent Expression of Regional Fare’ “The campaign programme is designed to foster an awareness of and pride in our stunning and growing range of local produce and promote it to local, regional, national and international audiences,” says Mediaweb publisher Toni Myers.
“Our aim is to have the TONZAs in place throughout New Zealand by August of next year in time for the influx of international visitors for the Rugby World Cup in September and October.”
Myers says there has been very positive response to the Regional Fare initiative from both the hospitality industry and local producers. “There is little doubt that the trend towards consumers seeking out good local products is gathering momentum globally, which is being reflected in the growth of farmers’ markets in this country.”
Farmers’ Markets New Zealand, which was established only five years ago, now has 50 member markets throughout the country, representing over 1000 small to medium-sized food businesses and 50,000 weekly customers. The association recently held its third annual conference in Hamilton with international speakers from the UK and the USA outlining the latest developments in these markets globally, which include First Lady Michelle Obama’s launch of farmers’ market at the White House.

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