TRAVERSE CITY – Local produce will stand out on the shelves at Tom’s Food Markets thanks to a Michigan Land Use Institute program that promotes food from area kitchens and farms.
“We feel there’s a big gap in marketing local farmers and local food in retail establishments,” said Bill Palladino of the Michigan Land Use Institute. “The big focus of Taste the Local Difference this year is working with retailers, restaurants and institutions to sell more local food.”
Palladino is the project manager for MLUI’s Taste the Local Difference program, which launched 10 years ago to connect farmers and food producers with consumers. Taste the Local Difference is putting special emphasis on marketing.
Tom’s is the presenting sponsor of 2014 Taste the Local Difference, a $20,000 commitment. The store is testing Taste the Local Difference’s new initiative to flag local products with an orange banner to see if it leads to more sales of those products.
Palladino thinks the program will help consumers find local products and show retailers they can still make a profit selling local foods.
“It’s my job in this scenario to help sell more local food,” he said. “The only way that’s going to happen is if retailers can actually make money doing it.”
MLUI puts together annual Taste the Local Difference guides that map more than 560 food destinations in northwest Michigan, such as farms, restaurants and other food producers. It launched the 2014 guide at Tom’s 14th Street store on June 26.
Taste the Local Difference guides are available online at mlui.org, at visitor centers and retail food outlets.