On being able to afford to “buy local”

“Buying local” is a highly successful marketing case-study. The concept of buying local being a good thing is an intuitive one but closer analysis of the environmental impacts at least show that we may well be better off purchasing pears from Argentina and meat from New Zealand. Despite the debunking of food miles myths, consumers continue to pay well over the odds for local products. Perhaps this is due to richer consumers’ national pride and identity not simply loosely defined notions of “the local circular economy” and keeping “food miles” down.

An example of how powerful the buying local idea is illustrated by yesterday’s trip to my local supermarket here in Geneva, Switzerland. There are two main supermarkets in Switzerland, the Coop and Migros. Discounters like Denner and Aldi are nipping at their heels.

Swiss honey - 60% premium over what looks the same Italian honey

Swiss honey – 77% premium over what looks like (and presumably tastes like) the same honey but from Italy

The Coop offers consumers a “buy Swiss” option but it comes at a whooping mark up – here are two near identical types of honey on offer – one from Italy at 9 francs and the other from Switzerland at 16 francs. The minimum wage is around 20 francs an hour in Switzerland, so being patriotic in purchasing decisions would appear to be a upper-middle class activity.

Over the road, Denner the discount store has little to tempt the localism crowd, focusing purely on price. It sells the same Swiss honey at 12.45 francs, 25% cheaper than the Coop.

Time to buy shares in Coop?

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