I picked up some nice chocolate bars as gifts the other day and couldn’t help but notice that the label screamed “imported” –– from Belgium, no less. The manufacturer apparently believes this fact to be a selling feature worthy of a great deal of real estate on the product packaging.
Does “imported” really have an effect on the sales of food products these days?
For sure, in my grandparents’ day –– and even in my own youth –– when airplane travel and long-distance phone calls were luxuries, imported foods had a certain cachet. The word implied a high-quality product that was at once exotic and extravagant.
Now, virtually everything we buy is imported.
While some chocolate bars and fancy wines still brag about this fact on their labels, other products infuriatingly conceal their imported pedigree. At the grocery store, I often feel like a detective trying to sleuth out the origin of products, particularly in the produce section. For example, sometimes the display sign suggests apples are from British Columbia, but those annoying stickers on the Granny Smiths tell the real story with their stylized “Washington” logos. Last week I bought a cucumber from a display that read “BC cucumbers,” only to get home and find that, according to the sticker, my cucumber was grown in Spain, more than 8,000 km away!
There’s a good reason that grocers are trying to hide the imported nature of their food products.
Many of us, for environmental reasons, and to support Canadian farmers and food producers, make buying local a priority. Fortune magazine says, “consumers’ appetite for local food is exploding” and points to the trend of farm-to-table restaurants and farmers markets. Just look at the boom in craft breweries, for example.
Many of my friends and I would sooner buy local conventional food than organic products from further afield. While some marketers have twigged to this movement and are eagerly advertising locally grown or prepared products, others are still trying to cash in on the fact that their wares are from elsewhere.
I predict that “imported” as a marketing catch phrase will become less and less common in the coming years as more of us try to support our local suppliers. Watch for that trend in 2017.
As for chocolate bars, I, for one, am committing here and now to buying locally made ones, such as from Beta5, Gem, Denman Island Chocolate, Chocolate Arts and Purdy’s, to name just a few. Just doing my local duty.