Humans are omnivores by nature, but will 2011 be the year of the “locovore”? New research by Datamonitor shows that a desire to consume local produce (the behaviour of a locovore) is going to continue its upward trend as a lifestyle choice for Australians.

The trend has a strong following in the United States (but so does Sarah Palin), and has been gathering steam in Australian eateries quite recently.

A Datamonitor study conducted in July/August 2010 found that 33% of Australians are buying locally produced food either ‘most of the time’ or ‘all the time’, an increase from 26% in April/May 2009.

“Locally made food and drinks resonate strongly with Australians,” said Katrina Diamonon, consumer markets analyst at Datamonitor. “Not only as they support local communities, but because they are often perceived to be fresher and superior in quality.”

A challenge for the local food market is competition from imports, a threat that has intensified as a result of the Queensland floods. Hectares of food crops have been decimated, which has dramatically reduced yield and driven up food prices across the country. “During this difficult time, value conscious Australians are faced with a decision to either support local farmers or turn to lower-priced imports,” Diamonon continued.

Datamonitor predicts the local movement will continue to gather momentum in the coming year, but manufacturers need to fully understand the value that consumers derive from ‘local’ in order to capitalize on this opportunity.

“Consumers are keen to support fellow Australians, but need to be reassured that buying local does not compromise their pursuit for value or quality. Emphasizing tangible benefits such as price and convenience – in addition to local claims – will appeal to well-intentioned consumers,” Diamonon said.