Acampaign promot ing Manitoba food is almost ready to launch – just as soon as organizers nail down a definition of local food.
“Local means different things to different people,” said Dave Shambrock, executive director of the Manitoba Food Processors Association, who has overseen the stakeholder group designing the Buy Manitoba initiative
“From the food processors’ perspective, local means something that’s processed and manufactured in Manitoba. To some, local only means 100 per cent grown or raised and processed here. Then there’s others who say it doesn’t matter if it was processed here, as long as it (the raw ingredient) originated here.
“We’re going to have to agree and make sure that what we do develop, and all agree to, is going to be acceptable to the majority of shoppers.”
The program, which has been in the discussion stage for more than two years, was put into high gear last week when the province announced it will commit $742,100 for a two-year campaign, with an equal amount matched by the Manitoba food industry. The goal to raise the profile of Manitoba-grown and -raised food, and boost both consumption and support for Manitoba producers and processors.
“I’m hopeful that we’ll have something early in the new year,” said Shambrock.
A full-time program manager must be hired and brand development is not quite complete, he said. The rollout will feature billboard campaigns along with radio, TV and print ads. There will also be information on store shelves to help shoppers easily flag Manitoba foods, Shambrock said. Company-specific promotions will be tied to the initiative. Commodity-level production as well as processed foods will be identified and included in the campaign.
“We’re not just limited to processed products,” Shambrock said.
A survey of 800 primary grocery shoppers conducted in the fall of 2008 showed about 26 per cent define local food as “something that is grown or raised in Manitoba or close to home.” Most have a good impression of Manitoba foods and want to support local producers and processors, but said their products need better labelling so it’s easier to identify them. Survey respondents also supported a public-awareness campaign.
The survey also asked about their purchases of Manitoba food: 90 per cent said they buy it at least once a month and almost six in 10 said they buy it once a week or more. One per cent said they never did, and seven per cent said they simply don’t know if they do.
The program will help small and medium-size businesses which lack money for marketing and promotion, said Shambrock
“It will help them get established in their own local domestic market,” he said.
One of the key reasons cited by consumers for buying local is to support and sustain local economies, he added.
The initiative is being welcomed by Food Matters Manitoba, a charity funded by government and local foundations that promotes food security and the sustainability of food systems in Manitoba.
“I think that most people would prefer to buy Manitoba if they can,” said community liaison Paul Chorney. “So any way to encourage that would be good. It’s a good step for the government to take.”
The results of grocery shoppers’ survey are available online at: www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/statistics/releases/buymbfood_ surveyofmbgroceryshoppers. [email protected]