It appears that others are joining the "local washing" effort and co-opting these new buzzwords that people rely on when they want to choose a lower carbon or healthier alternative to industrial food. Unfortunately, the industrial food giants are saturating the market with confusing marketing.
In the article, The Corporate Co-Opt of Local, the author explains how big industry is altogether scrambling to join in. From the article:
This new variation on corporate greenwashing - local washing - is, like the buy-local movement itself, most advanced in the context of food. Hellmann's, the mayonnaise brand owned by the processed-food giant Unilever, is test-driving a new "Eat Real, Eat Local," initiative in Canada. The ad campaign seems aimed partly at enhancing the brand by simply associating Hellmann's with local food. But it also makes the a claim that Hellmann's is local, because most of its ingredients come from North America.....
Still another corporate strategy is to redefine the term "local" to mean, not locally owned or locally produced, but just nearby. "With the term 'local' being so nebulous, it seems ripe for manipulation," notes Mintel, another consumer research firm that counsels companies on how to "craft marketing messages that appeal to locally conscious consumers" and how to avoid "charges of 'local washing.'" The key, Mintel says, is for companies to decide what they mean by local and to disclose that clearly so as not to be accused of trying to misappropriate the term.
Corporate-oriented buy-local campaigns that define "local" as the nearest Lowe's or Gap store are now being rolled out in cities nationwide. Some represent desperate bids by shopping malls to survive the recession and fend off online competition. Others are the work of chambers of commerce trying to remain relevant. Still others are the half-baked plans of municipal officials casting about for some way to stop the steep drop in sales tax revenue.
Many of these AstroTurf campaigns are modeled directly on grassroots initiatives. "They copy our language and tactics," said Michelle Long, executive director of Sustainable Connections, a seven-year-old coalition of 600 independent businesses in northwest Washington state that runs a very visible, and according to market research, very successful "local first" program. "I get calls from chambers and other groups who say, We want to do what you are doing. It took me a while to realize that what they had in mind was not what we do. Once I realized, I started asking them, what do you mean by 'local'?"
For those of you unaware of the Starbucks local washing, there are a few stores in Seattle being "rebranded". Basically, they closed the Starbucks stores at several locations, remodeled them to look like an independently owned local coffeehouse and removed any Starbucks branding from all products and merchandise. But, it's essentially a Starbucks - with cooler baristas.
This has caused a bit of a ruckus in Seattle, particularly from those interested in supporting a local business over Bigbucks. And they feel pissed that Starbucks was trying to pull one over on them. I, for one, was rather offended by the sneakiness of the deal since I usually avoid Starbucks and their propensity for squeezing out the little guys.
Anyway, the article goes into far more detail than I'm providing here and makes a great read about what's going on with local washing, so go check it out.
What do you think about the local washing trend? Does it offend you or do you care?
Small Is Possible: Life in a Local Economy
Mega Food Manufacturers Go Local