A new study asking consumers and food operators about locally sourced foods finds the terms are becoming more common, but pinning down a consistent definition of these terms is difficult.

Research shows consumers like local food, but hurdles remainThe report, released by advertising agency Charleston|Orwig and the research firm Datassential, surveyed 2,741 consumers and 320 food operators to learn more about the “locally sourced” trend.

Findings show definitions of the term vary. While 27% of respondents say a national brand is considered local if sales help the local economy, the majority was more restrictive. According to the report, 58 percent of consumers say local ingredients must be used for a national brand to be considered locally sourced while 17 percent say a national brand can never be considered local.

The findings show the respondent’s age is an important factor as people define local. Younger respondents said locally sourced means items were produced between five and 15 miles from home. Older respondents were not as concerned with distance, but put an emphasis on ingredients supporting the local economy and produced on small farms.

With the definition of local food still fuzzy, the survey relates the term to decisions made at a restaurant. In the report, 82 percent of consumers say they are likely or somewhat likely to order something on the menu identified as locally sourced. Despite the interest, a majority of food operators (58 percent) don’t offer any locally sourced or farm-identified items. The report found university and college campuses were more likely to offer such items.

Despite the preference for local items, food safety, price, quality and a fresh supply were the top hurdles observed by consumers and food operators. Both groups agreed food safety is more important than using local ingredients.