Sacramento, California-based family-owned regional supermarket retailing powerhouse Raley's is expanding it's already aggressive local foods merchandising and marketing programs in a number of ways, clearly visible in its stores and in it's multi-media advertising.
Among the increased local foods merchandising and marketing efforts the 129 store regional supermarket chain is making include:
>Labeling all foods grown or produced within a few hundred miles from its Sacramento, California base with eye-catching "locally-grown" and "locally-produced" shelf signs. This includes fresh produce, meats, perishables and dry grocery items, including natural, organic and specialty foods offerings.
>Labeling foods grown and produced in California, but farther than a few hundred miles away from its Sacramento base, with "Grown in California" shelf signage.
>Increasing the number of exclusive deals it signs with local farmers, buying the local growers' entire fresh produce crops, and touting the locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables by building massive displays in store produce departments, running large front page ads for the local items in the retailer's weekly newspaper advertising circular, and often running full-page color ads in the major daily newspapers in the grocer's market regions featuring such local produce such as corn on the cob, strawberries, melons and other fruits and vegetables grown by local farmers.
Raley's contracts for the entire crop of a given grower (which can be expensive), which are grown by top-quality farmers, because locally-grown produce is now so popular in California that it gives the retailer a major competitive advantage to do so. It touts not only the local aspect of the fresh produce items, but the exclusivity to Raley's as well.
>Working closer with local natural, organic and specialty foods' producers and vendors by authorizing their local food and grocery products in the stores, promoting the local items more extensively, and partnering with the local producers at special events like community food fairs and charitable events designed to increase awareness and sales of locally-grown and produced food products.
>Creating more "local foods" in-store displays and cross merchandising the local items both by meal complementary merchandising techniques and by local region.
>Offering locally-grown fresh produce at reasonable prices rather than doing what some food retailers do and selling them for a premium.
>Conducting more frequent in-store local foods sampling events, often having numerous local foods producers, including farmers, do the tastings in the stores at the same time.
Raley's, which is the food and grocery sales market share leader in the Sacramento region market, and has stores under the Raley's, Bel-Air Markets, Nob Hill Foods and Food Source banners elsewhere in Central and San Joaquin Valley, north of Sacramento, in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Nevada, has long positioned itself--and is--as the local grocer, even though the chain has grown to 129 stores and nearly $4 billion in annual sales.
Along with its extensive--and increased--local foods merchandising and marketing commitment, the supermarket chain has a charitable foundation that gives millions of dollars to charities in Sacramento and the other Northern California regions where it operates stores.
In addition to the foundation, the corporation itself donates millions of dollars in cash and in-kind food donations to non-profit groups, charitable organizations and food banks and pantries throughout Northern California and Nevada.
The grocer also has a program in which customers can select a card in either $5, $10, or $20 amounts at each checkout lane as a way to make a donation to local food banks. Shoppers select the card while waiting to get checked out, give it to the store clerk as she rings up their purchases, the clerk scans the card, and the amount goes into a special account, 100% of which is donated to programs to feed the hungry. Raley's matches a portion of the total funds donated by customers each year.
Raley's also funded Sacramento's fairly new state-of-the-art baseball stadium for the city's super-popular Sacramento Rivercats minor league baseball team. The baseball stadium, called Raley Field, is packed every night during the season with families who as far as they are concerned believe the local minor league team is every bit as enjoyable to watch as a major league baseball team is.
Raley's runs all sorts of promotions in conjunction with the team and stadium. The grocer also gives out hundreds of tickets during the season to lower income families and children. To say the River Cats are a hot ticket is the understatement of baseball season. They draw more fans on many nights than a lot of major league baseball teams in parts of the U.S. do.
Raley's was a first-mover in California and national food retailing in terms of getting into local foods merchandising and marketing in a serious and major way. The added efforts and programs started by the grocer a few months ago and increasing even more recently are positioning the chain as one of the foremost local foods food retailers in the U.S.
It's paying dividends for the supermarket chain as well; that's why Raley's continues to add more elements and aspects to its local foods program.
Others like Safeway Stores, Inc. Whole Foods Market, and numerous regional chains, multi-store independents, single-store independent grocers and natural foods retailers also are into local foods merchandising in a big way in California.
In fact, those few food retailers who aren't "going local" are really at a big disadvantage, as most grocers and California market observers will tell you the local foods movement is growing much faster than the organic foods movement is in the Golden State.
In part that's because the organic foods movement is more mature, and still is growing considerably. But that's really only a small part of the equation. the major reasons the "buy local" is growing faster than the organic consumer movement right now in California is because it hits on so many hot buttons important to the state's consumers. These include freshness of product, price, environmental concerns, food safety concerns, desire to support local agriculture, and many more.
Raley's own research identified this growing movement some time ago, and that along with the best indicator, sales of locally-grown and produced food products in the grocers stores, is encouraging the family-owned supermarket chain to grow its local foods merchandising and marketing programs even more.