Near and Dear

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Near and Dear


In all areas of the gourmet marketplace, the demand for locally made items is soaring, particularly for craft beers and craft sodas.

“Supporting local brands is important to us and our customers,” says Ian Pilarski, director of specialty grocery for the Fairway Market chain in the New York area, citing locally made products such as agave-sweetened soft drinks and beers.

At specialty food store Best Choice Market in Ludington, Mich., manager Cary Wooster says that botanical waters have been a hit. “Our lavender and mint waters [did] better than we expected this [past] summer. People really seem to like them,” she reports.

She also says that her shoppers appreciate locally produced items, including beers, wines, sodas and juices. “Some of the craft brewers have really established themselves. And it’s important for us to support local brands as well,” she notes.

Jennifer Zegler, beverage analyst for research firm Mintel, reports that locally made micro-brewed beer, in particular, continues to spike in popularity. “Local craft beer is huge. It’s appealing to Millennials of drinking age, who go to farmers’ markets and care about how and where foods are made. Craft beer taps into that, because it’s local and because you have the chance to talk to the people who brewed it, because they often visit stores and bars,” she says. Additionally, she says, in today’s post-recessionary merchandising environment, “People want to make sure they are sponsoring businesses they believe in.”

She also emphasizes the growing popularity of locally made wines and, more recently, other alcoholic drinks. “We’ve seen it in the spirits segment a bit. Artisanal spirits appeal to consumers because of the craftsmanship. If it’s distilled in a copper pot with infused flavor, it offers a gourmet experience. It’s not a cocktail -- it’s an experience,” she explains.