Posted by: lisetta | June 29, 2008

Food shopping hits mainstream

The business section of the NYT this week had an interesting article describing the strategies Heinen’s Fine Foods, a grocery chain in Cleveland, uses to retain customers. Its loyal middle- and upper-class shoppers “while concerned about price, are increasingly thinking about their foods’ origins and quality….And they almost certainly don’t want to drive around to six different stores cherry-picking deals.” Amen!

I don’t want to drive around town looking for ingredients either, so I’ve lately taken to shopping at Genuardi’s in Wynnewood, where they’ve always got small zucchini, snow peas, Campari tomatoes and fresh fruit at decent prices. (Got cherries and raspberries today; anticipate another happy week!) When the farmer’s market picks up, I’m likely to head there instead.

In Italy this year, I noticed that, in small grocers and chains alike, all of the fruits and vegetables were labeled with the country of provenance (e.g. pears from Argentina, bananas from Africa). It was interesting that neither Carla nor her mother wanted to buy fruit/vegetables from other lands. The ‘eat local’ manifesto comes somewhat naturally to Italians, whose country’s long history of city-states still defines cultural identity today. 

I wonder why most American stores don’t label the origin of produce. Sometimes the little sticker on the fruit identifies where it comes from (my peaches came from the US; so did my cherries, avocado and watermelon), but just as often we can’t tell (my zucchini is small enough to be local). Will this change as more people demand to know where their food comes from? In Trader Joe’s recently, I heard an older woman complaining that the product she wanted to buy came from China, a country whose food safety she mistrusted. If more of us start asking questions, will the purveyors respond in kind?

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Responses

  1. I went to the Headhouse farmers market for the first time this season. The prices were a bit high, of course, but the produce was gorgeous. I got blueberries, cherries, lettuce, tomatoes, and a cucumber. The tomatoes were phenomenal–they tasted like tomatoes–and the cucumber was delicious, too. I haven’t tried the fruits yet, but they looked like they were going to be good. It’s so much fun to buy things directly like that. By the way, Whole Foods labels their produce. It has stopped me from buying apples recently, as I didn’t want to buy produce from New Zealand or Chile (if I remember correctly)–carbon guilt.

  2. I agree! Much nicer than strolling the air conditioned aisles. I noticed higher prices at the Clark Park Farmer’s market this year as well. I like to buy local but can’t imagine refusing to buy food from overseas. No Italian food would render me vacant.

  3. No, you’re right. I’m not talking about being militant. Today I bought cheese from France, for example, and of course I drink wine. But if I can have local peaches, blueberries, and cherries now, I can probably suffer the wait until fall to have local apples.


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