Illinois local food

A small shift in buying habits means billions for Illinois. In fact, the state economy would generate more than an additional $2.4 billion annually if every Illinois household dedicated just $10 of its weekly grocery budget to the purchase of Illinois products, according to the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA).

To clarify, this is not new money – just shifting a $10 bill in a household’s existing budget.

“We’re trying to make that number resonate with consumers and how important it is to buy Illinois,” says Jennifer Tirey, bureau chief of marketing and promotions for the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

Grocers have told her: If the product is local, consumers will buy it. And if consumers realize the power of their dollars, they become more inclined to look for it. So the department’s newest marketing effort works three-fold: encourage food makers to brand their products as Illinois, give retailers the means to market Illinois and prompt consumers to buy Illinois.

That’s the basis for the Buy Illinois Challenge, a statewide effort to educate and stimulate marketing and buying habits for the sake of more in-state commerce.

The Buy Illinois Challenge encompasses two of the state’s logo programs: Illinois Product and Where Fresh Is. Both longtime logos earned a fresh look within the past year and regained the enthusiasm for a promising future. The first includes any product produced, processed, packaged or headquartered in the state. The latter promotes Illinois-grown fruits and vegetables. Food companies and farmers can use the logos, and grocery stores and restaurants that carry these products may use them in point-of-sale material.

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Buy Illinois Challenge

The branding effort helps increase visibility and product awareness in the marketplace.

“My goal is that the Illinois food companies and growers see the value in the branding and that they participate with us and use the branding campaign to help draw more consumers to their products,” Tirey says. “The governor values the importance of this Buy Illinois Challenge and supporting our local businesses and local growers.”

Anew grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture enables the department to work with 125 grocery stores and 85 farmers markets in Illinois. The retailers earn publicity and marketing materials in exchange for tracking sales data. The grant will fund promotional activities, including television commercials to highlight Illinois’ summer fruits and vegetables. Gov. Pat Quinn jump-started the campaign in June. The commercials air throughout the state in summer 2013 and feature Illinois-grown strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, peaches and sweet corn.

“So many people want to buy local, but don’t know where to find it,” Tirey says. “Our mission is to help make that connection between the consumer and finding it.”

If the program succeeds, Illinois products will be hard to miss. Participating retailers in the first phase of this program will receive 6-foot banners and stickers. They also gain access to high-resolution graphics for use on printed materials and websites.

When Illinois-grown and -made products become easy to find, small shifts in buying habits become easier to make.

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