“Eat Local” Goes Commercial

Richard Malinowski Farm, La Crescent MN
Is there an oxymoron here? “Eat within a 150 mile radius” and “Multi-billion dollar global food service company”?

Compass Group USA, a subsidiary of UK-based Compass Group PLC, launched its second “Eat Local” campaign this past September where cafes across the US promoted locally grown produce, conducted on-site farmers markets, sponsored farm tours and used local ingredients in an effort to bring visibility to the benefits of buying locally.

So far so good – but why just one month a year? Why not all year?

Our recommendations:

  • Add small, family farms to the mix – not just focus on the “viability of the mid-sized American family farm”
  • Promote organic, transitional, low-chemical-input, or sustainable farming practices
  • Offer a wide range of fresh and/or minimally processed food choices

Here’s the company press release:

Customers of Compass Group USA enjoyed the fall flavors as thousands of its locations featured the 2nd annual ‘It Takes You–Eat Local’ campaign this past September. Across the country, cafes promoted locally grown produce, conducted on-site farmers markets, sponsored farm tours and used local ingredients in an effort to provide visibility to the many benefits of buying locally.

Defined as food grown within a 150 mile radius, local food purchases tallied $3,302,336 during the month of September. To compare, last year’s campaign totaled $2,926,708, an 11.4% increase.

Complementing the campaign was the Ag in the Middle program (AITM) which rolled out nationally in May 2010, based on the success of pilots in North Carolina, Minnesota and the Washington, DC area in 2009. It brings the produce of mid-sized farms faster and more efficiently into Compass Group’s supply chain and onto customers’ plates through their network of distributors across the country. The goal is to support local communities and the viability of the mid-sized American family farm. Compass Group tracked a substantial 25% year-over-year increase in local produce purchases across the country in 2010 as a result of the expansion of the AITM program.

JoAnne Berkenkamp, Program Director at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, explains, “For farmers, the market for locally grown product can be as unpredictable as the weather. By contrast, Compass Group’s deepening commitment to buying locally lets mid-sized farmers know there is a buyer for their product, one who values stable relationships with producers and strives for fairness in their business dealings. The local food supply chains that Compass is catalyzing are growing stronger each year. With the national roll-out of Compass’ Ag in the Middle initiative in 2010, we are now seeing that effort come to fruition. The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy is proud to partner with Compass in this work.”

As part of their commitment to sustainable agriculture and wellness, Compass Group has been supporting ‘buy local’ initiatives for many years, formalized in a company-wide initiative in 2007. Purchasing is done through approved produce distributors to ensure food safety and traceability.

Once again, ‘It Takes You–Eat Local’ was one of the company’s most successful promotions. Thousand of accounts participated, with strong support in the corporate dining world and on university campuses. In Eurest Dining Services, participating client locations included Procter & Gamble (OH, CT, and MD) and Boeing (WA). Chartwells Higher Education at the University at Albany and at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County had much success.

Marc Zammit, Vice President of Corporate Sustainability Initiatives and Culinary, Compass Group USA explains, “Our Eat Local campaign is always a great opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to our local communities. We’re creating positive changes in the lives of local farmers and their families across the country while serving the freshest and best locally-grown products to our customers. This campaign continues to gain momentum due to the commitment of our chefs and foodservice managers in the field.”

About Compass Group USA

Based in Charlotte NC, Compass Group USA is the leading foodservice and support services company with $9.2 billion in revenues in 2009. With 386,000 associates worldwide, its parent company, UK-based Compass Group PLC had revenues of 13.4 billion pounds Sterling in the year to September 30, 2009. For more information, visit the company’s website.