The market for locally and regionally sourced food is expected to increase from £4.3bn in 2007 to £5.7bn by 2012. That's growth that even the organic sector would be proud of. But will that growth be at the expense of organic food?

A survey commissioned by The Grocer back in April found country of origin affected consumer purchasing more than whether it was organic. Evidence of how successful a "local" brand can be is found in the success of Taste of the West. The Devon and Cornwall-based regional food group was founded in 1991 and charged with bringing interested parties together. But since then, it has evolved: it now opens the way for retailers to source products from multiple specialist suppliers across the region, yet only deal with one invoice.

Taste of the West supplies retailers including Budgens and the nine Mole Valley Farmers stores, and has also helped Tesco source locally.

"Devon is the organic capital of the UK, but even here local is of paramount importance," says chief executive John Sheaves. "The main attributes of local from a consumer's point of view cross over with organic and Fairtrade principles. They want healthy, fresh food and they want to support local producers. That's more important to them than the production system."

Organic's "flaw", says Sheaves, is that when it runs out it has to be imported. The Soil Association recently recommended that the organisation's standards should be changed so that organic produce can only be air-freighted if it also meets the Soil Association's own Ethical Trade or the Fairtrade Foundation's standard. This ensures "organic produce will only be flown in if it also delivers real benefits for farmers in developing countries".

But for some producers on these shores, the combination of organic and local is the ideal combination. Social enterprise Growing with Grace supplies 250 boxes a week and has developed a multi-drop box service via local post offices.

"We are absolutely committed to taste, but it's down to the consumer not to demand out of season produce," says grower Jack Parkinson. "The major difference between us and the supermarkets is that we provide our customers with picked-on-the-day fresh produce, and the taste difference that comes with that."

While the supermarkets' forays into box schemes appear to have slipped into the background, the idea of local, fresh produce is gaining stature. Waitrose, seen by many as a flag-bearer for organic produce, has embarked on a programme to open 100 Market Town branches specialising in local food. This may have independents feeling twitchy, but could help drive the market for locally sourced organic food. n