Is local on your grocery receipt?

It may be if you’re buying from a co-op.

Seward Co-op in Minneapolis made a big announcement this fall announcing P6. It’s Seward’s way of letting customers know how much of what they buy is local or grown or made by a small producer or produced by a nonprofit cooperative business.

If a product meets two out of three criteria, it’s designated P6, with stickers or signs. And the receipt will say what percentage of purchases fall in the P6 category.

Seward is one of seven stores nationally that founded P6. It’s a way for Seward to brand food as local before the definition becomes too hazy to be useful, says Tom Vogel, marketing and member services manager.

Some of the other elements that cooperatives have been focusing on for the last 30-40 years, including local, were being co-opted by other institutions, by conventional big box retailers and were really diluting the brand. We had seen this happen with organic and were beginning to see this with fair trade. And the value of local was being diminished.

Vogel says it’s possible to buy a P6 item that is not considered local, but fits the other criteria of coming from a small producer or nonprofit cooperative. Coffee, for example.

basil grown at Willernie, MN at River Market.jpg

At River Market Community Co-Op in Stillwater, fresh basil grown in Willernie, Minn., sits on the produce shelf. Once a shopper buys the basil, or any other locally grown product the cash register calculates the percentage of local products and indicates that percentage on the receipt. It’s very much like the P6 system, but only for locally grown or made.

River Market General Manager Mead Stone says the co-op started noting local on receipts at the end of April this year, and they’ve been adding items to the system ever since. Stone says “local” means anything raised or made within a five-state region. At his store, that ranges from vegetables to cheese to handmade soap.

If River Market’s customers have noticed the local notation on their receipts, Stone hasn’t heard it. River Market isn’t quiet about its local effort, however. Signs in the store urge shoppers to buy local products, which bear green stickers with a big “L”. Some signs describe the people behind the product.

River Market and Seward Co-op are trying to add more local products for reasons that have more to do with community than market share. Both Stone and Vogel say their buyers are looking for more farmers to boost the local offerings even higher.

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