A recent study conducted by the University of Florida revealed that Floridians are currently buying more locally grown produce than residents of the other 49 US states, and that retail sales are also higher in The Sunshine State than elsewhere.
Making an exception for takeaway meals, local food now represents roughly 20% of all food purchased in Florida to be consumed at home, said the Extension scientist Alan Hodges, working for the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
The study consisted of a consumer survey that covered the whole of the state, and showed a marked difference between previous estimates – other states had put the figure at around the 5% mark, meaning that Florida’s local foods are accounting for roughly four times as much of the total food sales in comparison to the rest.
Hodge believes that this means Florida is well on its way to self-sufficiency in terms of its food production, and attributes that success to the great weather that gives Florida its nickname of the “Sunshine State” – the high amount of sunlight all year round provides very favourable conditions for the growing of fruits and vegetables.
This study was conducted as part of a much larger project, one which looks at consumer preferences regarding locally grown foods.
Traci Irani, the professor of agricultural education at the University of Florida and the director of communication and development at the aptly-named PIE Centre (the Centre for Public Issues Education), said that these results suggest that consumers may now be paying closer attention to what they are putting in their bodies, perhaps due to an increased amount of nutrition coverage in the popular media.
This increased awareness will of course result in an uptick of sales of locally grown, natural produce, but only to a point – Irani also stated that the sales would only continue to increase if there was a similar increase in the advertisement and marketing of the local goods.
Floridians are hoping that more people from abroad will start booking flights to Florida to try the locally grown fruits for themselves, and that their economy could benefit from the increased tourist revenue. Currently, the projections are that, in the last twelve months, local food sales in the Sunshine State totalled a massive $8.3 billion.
Of this total, only $320 million came from restaurant sales, whereas grocery stores made up a huge $6 billion! Clearly, there is room for improvement when it comes to the restaurant industry – Hodges stated that diners should start asking their favourite restaurants to incorporate locally produced meats and other ingredients.
Clearly, consumers are sensing the health and economy benefits that come with buying local, and Florida is finally seeing the profits that come with this. The East Coast state is a blazing a trail when it comes to actual sales – we can only hope that other states (and countries) follow suit.