Over the past few years, there’s been a more concerted push behind the consumer movement to support local businesses.
While not brought on solely by the pandemic, the unique situation of the past few years has certainly helped the momentum, as shoppers seek out locally made products on bottle shop shelves.
Carolyn Macleod, Senior Brand Manager at Riverland wine label, Oxford Landing, said there are several elements that are driving the trend to support local products.
“Shopping local is certainly not a short-term trend, but rather a shift in consumer behaviour, particularly as we continue to face increasing economic pressures and global supply chain issues. Buying local avoids food miles, is more consistent and reliable in regards to quality, supports the community by putting money back into the local region, and has better transparency around ethical standards,” Macleod said.
These elements are also impacting how the local brands operate too, as they review their production processes and logistics to reduce dependence on the international space. In 2022, NAB research revealed that local business lending has risen, showing more activity in the space overall.
NAB Executive for Small Business, Ana Marinkovic, said: “Since the onset of the pandemic, more customers are choosing to support local businesses and buy Australian made. This is reflected in our lending to local manufacturers over the past 12 months.”
NAB’s research also showed that 34 per cent of consumers surveyed were mindful of supporting businesses local to their area. Shoppers are finding there is something extra special about supporting hyper localised products.
Kathleen Davies, Founder of Australian craft spirit distributor, Nip of Courage, said the pandemic has assisted this part of the shop local movement.
“There is a thirst for Aussie craft spirits in regional and rural areas of Australia since people from major cities have relocated for better work life balance since the pandemic,” she said.
“The variety of local spirits is endless and consumers love being able to meet the makers and support their local communities by choosing to buy Aussie craft spirits over imported spirits.”
Macleod has also seen this in the wine industry, with South Australian consumers in particular opting to go hyperlocal.
“There is a genuine emotional attachment for consumers supporting local business and it will be important for business to remain part of the community and continue to engage with consumers at that personal level in order to sustain,” she said.
The big question for many pandemic-fuelled industry trends at the moment is about longevity – now that we are living in a largely restriction-free world again, will consumers continue to seek out local products at the same rate?
The answer is yes for Marty Williams, Head of Marketing at Mr Black, who says: “I believe that demand will remain strong for locally made products throughout the next 12 months and long into the future.”
Williams’ key reasoning for this is about consumers recognising the quality credentials of local products, which are communicated when brands are truly transparent.
“More and more consumers are interested in the story of how the things they drink make their way into a bottle or can. Mr Black has found that being transparent with ingredients and process adds to the quality perception around our products and belief in our brand,” he said.
For Macleod as well, the localised consumer movement will continue to be driven by this transparency.
“Buying local satisfies the consumer’s increased desire to know the origins, processes and background of the products that they are purchasing and consuming,” she said.
With the rising cost of living and a possible recession on the cards, Davies predicted the trend will focus on the more accessible end of the industry, which allows consumers to invest in local products at a more affordable price point, and begin to explore the possibilities of Australian made drinks from there.
“With rising interest rates and living expenses I believe that the shop local trend will continue into next year with a heavy focus on Australian craft spirits priced under $100,” Davies said.
“For example, we have noticed already a significant rise in demand for products like Starward’s Two-Fold Double Grain Australian Whisky, which has been a game changer in the local whisky category, making it more approachable to consumers and trade alike.”
As Australian producers keep on innovating the local drinks industry, there is no doubt Australian consumers will stay interested in supporting them, in one way or another.
Supporting the success of local products
While demand for local products is predicted to persist in 2023, simply stocking Australian brands in-store isn’t enough to ensure their sustainable success.
As Davies notes: “If the smaller producer’s brands are unsupported and not marketed well they can be delisted very quickly or end up in the bargain bin, which is detrimental to brand equity.”
This is why it’s important for retailers and producers to work together to make sure local products can be surfaced better to consumers, leading to more sales for both sides, and a satisfied shopper who has been able to complete their mission of supporting local.
This article originally appeared in the December/January issue of National Liquor News. Read this issue to also find hot new locally-made releases.