David Willie, director with the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance, gives a speech Hertel Meats in Port Alberni on March 27 to introduce a new initiative—Island Good—that highlights Island produced food in grocery stores. KARLY BLATS PHOTO

Island Good program introduces new way to identify local food

Quality Foods is amongst the four stores involved in the program to help shoppers buy locally

Buying Vancouver Island products at the grocery store just got a little easier, with the launch of the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance’s (VIEA) new initiative, Island Good.

Island Good is aimed at increasing the strength of the local food economy by identifying food products grown or produced on Vancouver Island.

The pilot project will run March through mid-September in Quality Foods, Country Grocer, Thrifty Foods and 49th Parallel. In all stores, shoppers will be alerted to Vancouver Island produced food products through signage and stickers.

“Vancouver Island Economic Alliance has been working a long time on trying to grow the economy of Vancouver Island,” said David Willie, director with VIEA. “This has always been a dream to try and utilize the strengths we have on the Island.”

In a press release, George Hanson, VIEA president said he believes that more people will purchase Vancouver Island food products if they are more aware of them and can find them more easily in stores.

“We believe this will lead to increased demand, which can lead to increased potential for export trade and better balance in our Island economy,” Hanson said.

Port Alberni mayor Mike Ruttan said the initiative is important because it highlights the opportunity and the value of local food.

“When I was a kid, Vancouver Island grew 47 per cent of it’s own food and today we produce three per cent. We really need to turn it around,” Ruttan said. “This is not only an important part of who we were but who we could become.”

Port Alberni’s Hertel Meats is just one of the Island producers being recognized as solely Island produced with the Island Good initiative.

“It’s about getting our name out there and letting people know,” said Hertel’s production manager Mitch Fitzgibbon. “Even people in [Port Alberni] don’t know [Hertel’s] is out here. We probably have one of the best products in the business and we want people to use it.”

Colin Johnston, who works at Quality Food’s meat and deli division head office, said the store is excited to be bringing more attention to Island products in their grocery stores.

“It’s like an Easter egg hunt trying to find Island products amongst all of the stuff in the store, so this, with the branding, the logo and media should draw attention to all the local products,” he said.

VIEA will compare same products, same store, same month sales activity during the pilot project with sales records from 2017 to demonstrate the effect of improved product awareness. They will use this information to encourage food producers to mark their products ‘made on Vancouver Island’ or ‘grown on Vancouver Island’ to further promote their products and build demand.

karly.blats@vancouverislandfreedaily.com

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