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Deli Sets Goal to Source Forty Percent of Ingredients from Local Suppliers by 2026

Our co-op’s Development Team set close to fifty goals in the new five-year vision we drafted earlier this year, one of the biggest of which is increasing our support for local suppliers. Adding more local groceries and household products to our selection is probably what comes to mind when you imagine the ways we can achieve that goal, and while that’s true, another contributing factor is our Deli’s focus on using local ingredients.

According to Layne Qualy, our Deli Manager since 2017, our Deli “currently averages about 20% of their ingredients sourced from local suppliers each year,” and one of her goals is to increase that to 40% by 2026. Although this may prove difficult due to fluctuations in pricing and product availability caused by the pandemic, keeping local top of mind is already second nature to the Deli Team when creating their recipes, sourcing ingredients, and fulfilling catering orders.

For example, when making new recipes, they often look at what local ingredients are in season and aim to use as many from local suppliers as they can. Then they continue building seasonal menus around those same ingredients so they can reuse them in even more recipes. In general, the rule of thumb is to source local as often as possible based on price, availability, and consistency. “Consistency in products is really important to the function of the Deli, so if a supplier has a lot of a product week after week and it can go into one of our best-selling recipes, it’s a match made in local heaven,” says Qualy.

Sourcing from local suppliers is not without its challenges. Coordinating deliveries can be complicated, for example. The more local suppliers from which ingredients are sourced, the more deliveries our Deli receives, and it can be difficult to track those. Plus, pricing can be challenging. “On one hand, local vendors have an advantage because they can choose which crops to grow, have creative delivery solutions, and can work with us to negotiate fair pricing. Whereas, large suppliers are sometimes able to instantly offer lower prices because they have more buying power,” she explains. When pricing the Deli’s products, Qualy calls it a balancing act. “As a community-supported co-op, it is our job to balance offering low priced items to our shoppers through lower cost of goods while still making sure our local suppliers are economically supported.”

On the bright side, the benefits of sourcing local far outweigh the challenges. “A real-life example was when there was a nationwide shortage of chicken due to transportation and labor problems early on during the COVID-19 outbreak,” explains Qualy. “Our large suppliers had no chicken for us during that time, but our local suppliers were able to increase our orders and make multiple deliveries. That meant we were one of the only stores in town who had chicken to sell, and it’s all because they stepped up to keep our community fed.”

Next time you pick up one of our famous burritos, a signature sandwich, or another product from our Deli, you can feel good knowing it was made with ingredients from local suppliers right here in our community.

This article was originally published in the September/October 2021 issue of our bi-monthly newsletter, The Morsel. If you’d like to read more stories like this one and stay up to date on the latest co-op news and events, pick up a print copy in-store on your next grocery run or find more news on our website here.

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