Metro refines what it means to source local products

The grocer is profiling 40 of the farmers and vendors consumers want to support: the ones in their own backyards.

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Metro is putting a face to its products getting up close and personal with vendors that are growing food in the same communities its customers are living and shopping in.

A new campaign spotlights 40 Ontario vendors in a series of video profiles, like Bert Mucci, CEO of Kingsville, Ontario greenhouse grower Mucci Farms.

The grocer is hoping its consumers become advocates for locally sourced products, and re-promote members in the communities they’re in, according to Mathieu Robitaille, marketing director at Metro.

The social and in-store-driven campaign is the latest iteration of Metro’s “Locally Sourced” program, which launched in 2016 and has put a spotlight light on locally-grown produce, such as by looking at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.

But Robitaille tells strategy that working with research consultancy IMI, Metro found that the desire to support local is heightened even more thanks to the pandemic, growing from 58% to 66% of consumers who cite it as being important to them, year-over-year. And that change has crystalized what Metro means when it says “locally sourced.”

“Canadians are saying they do want to support local and we’ve seen, working with different groups, that the definition of local is changing,” Robitaille explains. “We were torn before about what local was – whether it was Canadian, Ontario [or] right in your own backyard. Now, it’s more the latter.”

Metro’s local sourcing program, a partnership with organizations like Foodland Ontario and the Dairy Farmers of Ontario, is built around seven Ontario “zones” based on where its manufacturers are, whether it’s Thunder Bay spice maker Shumka Dust, or Jakeman’s Maple Farm, near Woodstock.

The program is being promoted in-store through dedicated four-way merchandising units, end caps, in-store signage, permanent towers and hardware across all 130 Metro stores in Ontario. The message will also be coming across in physical and digital flyers, plus a dedicated digital hub where consumers learn more about what kind of products are available in their local communities.

According to Robitaille, putting everything related to local sourcing under a single umbrella – be it communications, promotion or working to recruit vendors or help them scale up – will make it easier for consumers to find the products they are looking for and that are local to them.

“We are firing on all cylinders, whether it’s social, online, through associates, flyers, more traditional media,” he says. “We’re using the voice available to us to give exposure to partners.”

The spend is on par with a typical summer or holiday campaign, he says, and the campaign is running both in-store and on Metro’s digital channels until mid-August. The Hive handled the creative, Havas the paid media and Agnostic did the PR.

Grocery banners had already been getting increasingly vocal about local, a trend that has only intensified since the beginning of the pandemic. Loblaw, for example, announced that by 2025, it would spend $150 million more each year through Canadian farmers, buying local produce that otherwise would have been imported