New campaign urges Manitobans to buy local food

Increasing awareness of food products produced and processed in Manitoba and making them easily identifiable to consumers on store shelves and on restaurant menus are objectives of new Buy Manitoba campaign

A new campaign launched in Manitoba this week will urge food shoppers to “taste, smile, repeat,” by discovering Manitoba-grown, -raised and -processed foods and buying them more often.

Buy Manitoba is a multi-year awareness and promotion which was to be unveiled at a Canada Safeway in Winnipeg April 26. It will help consumers easily identify made-in-Manitoba foods on store shelves, said Dave Shambrock, executive director of the Manitoba Food Processors Association (MFPA), which is administering the program with support from the province and industry partners.

The campaign will start with the Buy Manitoba message in advertising and promotions in media and transit buses in Winnipeg. A second phase of the campaign begins later in spring in the food-service sector.

“This is a regional product identifier and we know that’s important because people more and more want to identify and choose local food,” said Shambrock.

It’s also an industry acknowledgement that demand for local food is with us to stay, he said.

“This is absolute acknowledgement that there’s a desire among Manitobans to have more access to more local food,” Shambrock said, adding that suggestions that “eating local” or the “100-mile diet” would be a short-lived trend have turned out to be wrong.

“We thought it was a trend. It is not a trend,” he said. “It is a fundamental shift the way many consumers are viewing food.”

Consumer research showed that people are “absolutely passionate about supporting and eating local food,” he added.

The “taste, smile, repeat” message of the campaign aims to encourage consumers to try Manitoba foods, enjoy them and then continue to buy them because supporting local growers and processors benefits all of Manitoba.

Buy Manitoba has been about two years in development as they worked on the brand and a strategy for rolling this out. The program is mirrored most closely after a similar initiative in Quebec for the past five years, Shambrock said. Manitoba organizers looked at programs across North America before deciding this was the best model.

“It’s the most well organized in that it has equal partnership at the table with farmers, processors, food processors and chefs and anyone in the agri-food value chain that has a stake in this,” he said.

“And they started seeing great benefits after a couple of years.”

Economic benefits from the Quebec program include showing a 2.8 per cent increase in the sale of Quebec-origin agricultural and finished food products.

That may not sound like much, said Shambrock, but when the spinoff revenues of increased sales are added up this pays back to the provincial economy.

Consumers know there are many other good reasons to eating closer to home besides it being good for business too, he added.

“There’s a whole range of reasons why people are thinking that way and that’s really the interesting part of this. Many people prefer it for its freshness or have a comfort level that it’s travelled less. Some see it purely on environmental issues. And there’s people who just want to support local businesses.”

Participating Buy Manitoba products must qualify under one of the program rules including it be a food made entirely from ingredients sourced in Manitoba or composed of more than 85 per cent of main ingredients from Manitoba. All the processing and packaging activities must be done in the province.

More details of the campaign will be unveiled Thursday at Canada Safeway River East in Winnipeg.

The Buy Manitoba program will be guided by a program manager at the MFPA and a steering committee composed of retail and food-service members including Canada Safeway and Canad Inns, plus Keystone Agricultural Producers, the Manitoba Restaurant and Foodservice Association, the Canadian Culinary Federation Winnipeg Chapter, the Consumers Association of Canada Manitoba Branch and Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives.

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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