Hundreds, if not thousands, sampled and noshed the offerings of more that 40 local food producers during the 10th annual Local Island Showcase organized by Pepper’s Foods.
Held outside the store between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., the event showcased Pepper’s local suppliers.
Scott Zaichkowsky, head of Pepper’s grocery department, still remembers the first showcase. While 25 vendors participated back in 2009, this year’s event drew 45. Of those, 20 had participated in the first showcase. For Zaichkowsky, it is a sign of loyalty on behalf of vendors, but also sign that customers want locally grown food, when vendors more than happy to respond. “Customers come here to show local stuff, and this is the perfect event to showcase that,” he said.
The growth of the event is not just evident in the number of vendors. Zaichkowsky estimates some 400 people attended the first showcase. “Last year, we are anywhere between 800 and 1,000, and this year, I pretty much guarantee we will well surpass that [figure].”
This growth has coincided with changes in the attitudes of people towards food. “People have an appreciation for local businesses,” said Zaichkowsky. “When customers come here, they don’t always look for the big brand name, because it is popular or cheaper. They don’t mind spending the extra money to get better quality and something that it is produced locally, and a vendor that they are trying to help along the way. All of the vendors are good, perfect examples of that.” Ultimately, you get what you pay for, said Zaichkowsky.
This commitment towards the local also accounts for Pepper’s decision to feature the product of The Little Stand, a popular roadside jam stand in Saanich that shut down following a bylaw violation.
Katherine Little, along with her husband, were among the vendors participating in Thursday’s showcase, which they used to introduce new product. Little said the customers’ response has been outstanding.
“This has been an absolutely amazing community event, and we are really happy to be part of it,” she said.