“Local” claims could become latest trend in food labeling.

  • For years, food marketers have relied on claims such as “organic” and “natural” to attract consumers in the marketplace.  “Non-GMO” claims also have become more popular of late.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) administers the regulatory regime governing “organic” claims, but no consistent or clear regulatory definition exists to govern claims related to the “natural” or “non-GMO” status of foods.  As the food industry is well aware, such claims have been the subject of significant scrutiny and class action lawsuits in California and other states.
  • A marketing analytics firm has predicted that “local” claims may gain more traction in the marketplace in the near future.  The firm notes the relatively “broader spectrum of appeals” associated with the term, “local,” as it may connote freshness, economics, taste, transparency, and perhaps even nutritional quality.
  • New Jersey is in the process of developing a rule to define the terms, “local” and “locally grown” as they apply to farm products sold within the state.  Thus far, the definition is state-oriented, such that a “local” product must originate in New Jersey or otherwise bear a qualified claim that specifies the origin state, e.g,. “Locally grown in California.”  A revised proposed rule is expected to be published soon, and if adopted, New Jersey’s definition would be a national first in this claim arena.  In the meantime, however — as is the case with “natural” and “non-GMO” claims — entrants into the “local” claim market will face both the benefits and drawbacks associated with the use of undefined terminology on food labels and in advertising.