While a growing love for all things local runs throughout BC, turning a passion into a purchase can still be challenging for both industry and consumers.

According to the BC Food Processors Association (BCFPA), identification is a significant barrier.

“Locating BC products in most grocery stores is not the easiest exercise,” explains James Donaldson, BCFPA’s CEO. “There’s a lot of uncertainty for shoppers trying to navigate.”

To help consumers more easily identify and purchase locally produced products, the BCFPA partnered with Safeway to launch the Buy BC Food campaign.

Using Buy Local funding they developed a series of in-store and online promotions showcasing BC producers and processors in 76 BC Safeway stores, including distinct signage, contests, demonstrations, radio spots, and the first ever “Buy BC Food Race,” which highlighted just how easy it is to find BC products with the new signage.

Buybcfood.ca was also developed and currently lists over 2,000 BC products available at Safeway stores throughout the province.

Once shoppers were able to easily distinguish BC products, the choice was simple and the preference for local, easy to quantify.

“Within the first four months of the program, sales of BC products increased by over $5 million,” reports Donaldson.

Companies like Olympic Dairy are one of the many benefiting from enhanced exposure.

“The high profile launch of the Buy BC Food program increased awareness of our products,” says Lyall Torrence, Director of Key Accounts for Olympic Dairy. “The in-store identifiers are key for making it easy for consumers to find BC products.”

The project also helped grow the roster of locally available products by offering industry workshops on accessing retail buyers. “Winning Product Presentations” and “Meet the Grocer” provided practical tips, resources and networking opportunities to participants, resulting in several new retail listings.

After the pilot program’s success, the BCFPA plans to expand Buy BC Food to more retailers and is working with other Buy Local participants towards a self-sustaining local awareness program.

For Donaldson, having key resources already in place is critical for next steps.

“The online registration system and database will continue to provide an important vehicle for increasing awareness and sales of BC agrifoods,” he says.

Funding: $65,000 through the BC Government’s Buy Local Program. (BL036)