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Excellence NB Says Research Shows More People Are Considering Buying Local

Devon Strang with Blue Roof's vodka and potatoes from his family farm that's used to make the vodka. Image: Blue Roof Distillers Facebook page

MONCTON– You might have seen products with round “Made in NB” logos popping up in the province over the last year. That’s because more than 120 companies have signed up to be a part of Excellence NB‘s buy local movement. More than a year on, the private-sector led association says it’s seeing signs that more New Brunswickers are hopping on the bandwagon.

Excellence NB executive director Carol Holmes said New Brunswickers have engaged with the campaign, called For the Love of New Brunswick, on social media. And more are now considering to buy local products.

This was indicated in research by Corporate Research Associates (CRA) last spring, which included focus groups involving 440 people across the province. 

“Two things happened in that research that we conducted. One, there was 30 per cent recognition of the brand Excellence NB and For The Love of New Brunswick,” Holmes said. “In addition, we saw a shift in people’s behaviour….now seven out of 10 people are considering ‘how do I buy local? what can I do to buy local?'”

The situation in the U.S. is also affecting decisions in New Brunswick, Holmes said.

“There’s a lot going on in the U.S. with Trump and the tariffs and the protectionism there, and it just kind of all brought that message forward of there’s a lot of great things happening locally and you can get a lot of your products here.”

When the campaign was launched in February 2018, CRA managing director Craig White said while New Brunswickers are proud of local products and services, they weren’t very aware of what is made in the province.

“For residents, where a product is made is not a key consideration yet,” he said at the time. “But really what they looked at was price, quality, recommendations, which sure would seem logical. It’s very similar for businesses, they think of price and quality first. On top of that, people aren’t really sure which products and services, which companies, are New Brunswick made.”

Devon Strang, the founder of Blue Roof Distillers in Malden, N.B., was involved with Excellence NB since the beginning. He’s working on putting the “made in NB” logos on all of his products, while the company’s delivery truck is already marked with the same logo. 

He believes the logo helps consumers easily spot local products, providing value for New Brunswick businesses competing in the retail space with products from all over the world.

“Shelf space at retail is a very cluttered environment and it’s very confusing for the consumer to identify what products are made locally and what products aren’t made locally. Even some products that consumers begin to get familiar with, they’ll recognize it for its brand but they still won’t recognize it for maybe being produced locally,” he said. 

Strang said some buyers of Blue Roof’s most popular product, its craft potato vodka, didn’t know the product was made in New Brunswick.

As he moves into the ready-to-drink beverage market, the “made in NB” marker will be incorporated on the packaging of new products.

Blue Roof is launching a 5 per cent alcohol craft vodka soda, which Strang says is New Brunswick’s first, in 473 ml cans. The first line will have cranberry lime flavour, with other flavours set to follow. They’ll be available at NB Liquor stores on April 1.

“The marketplace is a very difficult environment. I fully believe that if there are three or four products on the shelf that are all similar in quality, if one is local, then the person will always choose the local one each and every time,” he said. 

Buying local allows consumers to support a business that contributes to employment and the economy in their own community, Strang said.

The “made in NB logo on Eclair Lips’ packaging. Image: Submitted

Sylvie Roy, the owner of Dieppe lip balm company Eclair Lips, agrees. An early adopter of the Excellence NB campaign, she also believes there’s value in making New Brunswick-made products easily recognizable.

“I think that even if you’re not familiar with the campaign, the logo draws attention to the fact that the product originates in our province. When we rebranded last summer, it was the perfect opportunity to incorporate the logo in our point of sales material – they’re featured on all of our displays that ship out to shops within New Brunswick, and our wholesale partners have been really happy to see this,” she said in an e-mail to Huddle.

“I feel that our retail customers love it too – they’re really rooting for us and are proud to be supporting an NB-made brand, and displaying that on our products really helps us highlight that element of our story and build community around this shared value.”

Since the rebranding, Eclair Lips has grown its reach from 50 stores in North America to 175. It also plans to expand its manufacturing capacity and will hire its first employee in the next few months, Roy said.

Excellence NB, a group of business leaders led by Jon and Leslie Manship, worked with Pierre-Marcel Desjardins, an economist with the Université de Moncton, to measure the impact of buying local.

Desjardins found that if New Brunswickers shift 5 per cent of spending towards local products, services and experience, some 5,000 to 9,000 full-time equivalent jobs could be created annually after five years.

This shift would also generate tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue annually for public services, add over $881 million to the province’s GDP, and generate more than $2 billion in additional sales annually after five years.

Holmes said it’s still too soon to follow up on that research as it takes time for people to shift their ways. But Excellence NB plans to update Desjardins’ research “when the timing is right.” 

The association also plans to survey the impact of the campaign on companies, which will likely happen in the summer. Excellence NB wants to know if businesses are gaining from more customers buying local and whether they’re considering buying from other local companies.

“We know that those big dollars in terms of what businesses spend a year to keep their companies going – a small shift of that spending to New Brunswick-based suppliers would also have a huge impact,” said Holmes. “It’s a communication, education campaign and we’re working really hard to remind people what is going on out there in terms of entrepreneurial endeavours.”