Produce Marketing Association president Bryan Silbermann, in an attempt to encourage the produce and foodservice industries to share their stories more, warned attendees at PMA’s recent foodservice conference in Monterey, Calif., that consumer media would be waiting with their own version of the truth if they didn’t.

Local is all how you play it

Ashley Bentley
Foodservice Focus

For McDonald’s, consumer and trade media were waiting with their skepticism when the chain told its local story in Washington state, where it already sources apples, potatoes, fish and milk.

The chain shared the percentages of its supplies of each item that were sourced from and served within the state, but did not provide such details about its sourcing nationally.

Eric Giandelone, director of foodservice research with Chicago-based Mintel, told AdWeek that McDonald’s could be the target of criticism for the campaign because it didn’t provide specific percentages or numbers that can be verified when it comes to its local procurement.

The same article highlighted Chipotle as an example of more transparency with its local program because it does give percentages.

If you take a deeper look, however, you will notice that with only the information given consumers, McDonald’s campaign is actually much more transparent.

Chipotle describes its 2010 locally grown program intentions in a May news release:

  • Chipotle began its locally grown produce program in 2008, committing to serve 25% of at least one produce item in each of its markets when seasonally available. For 2010, the company will raise its local produce goal to 50%.

So... some portion of Chipotle’s produce will be local sometimes in some markets.

At least the chain gives its definition of local, saying it is within 250 miles of a Chipotle distribution center.
There are 23 throughout the nation, and more than 1,000 restaurants.

I say what McDonald’s is doing is actually much easier to understand and is a great example of using the local movement as a chance to tell a story, which PMA has been harping on for quite some time now.

The chain is saying, “Look, here is where we’re getting our stuff, and although we’re a large corporation and our suppliers are large corporations, there’s still a great story to tell here.”

But McDonald’s isn’t getting nearly the break that Chipotle is. One blogger zoomed in on one of McDonald’s billboards to the disclaimer at the bottom that read, “Participation and duration may vary,” and said the chain’s tomatoes are probably from Immokalee, Fla., and that its high-fructose corn syrup is sourced from Ames, Iowa.

McDonald’s isn’t making blanket claims about a local produce program. It’s saying that, in Washington, apples and potatoes are coming from Washington companies. What Washingtonians should be even more excited about is that their local companies, as big as they may be, are also getting nationwide business from the chain.

That’s still support for their local communities.


What's your take on corporate locally grown programs? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.