Consumers may have cut back on their food spending in 2009 but not all categories were affected equally. In particular, consumers continued to show interest in the specialty food category which now comprises 13% of all retail food sales. Overall, consumers spent $63 billion in 2009 on specialty foods and beverages, resulting in an impressive 2.7% growth rate during a difficult year.
Note that the National Association for the Specialty food Trade defines specialty foods as premium-quality foods that are often made by small or local manufacturers or that have exotic or ethnic flavors. Given this definition, it’s easy to see that last year’s growth may have stemmed from consumer desire to eat more locally produced goods. And another factor prompting consumer interest is the exotic or ethnic properties of some food offerings. For example, yogurt and kefir experienced rapid sales growth in 2009. And the ethnic categories of Mediterranean, Latin and Indian foods performed particularly well.
In 2009, the following trends became noticeable and may carry into 2010.
- Percentage of foods produced within 250 miles of retail site where they're sold: 23.4%
- Percentage of manufacturers now involved in making/selling natural foods: 85%
- Percentage of specialty foods that are sold in traditional supermarkets: 74%
Industry analysts expect marketers to target Gen Y shoppers with specialty food offerings. This generation has grown accustomed to food luxuries and is well-acquainted with the products promoted by celebrity chefs on the Food Network. In addition, this generation responds positively to items positioned as local, sustainable and eco-friendly. Traditional print advertising may not be effective in luring twenty-something in the specialty food stores. Experts suggest that marketers promote in-store events such as cooking classes which appeal to the desire for experience and experimentation.[Sources: Bond, Pamela. Specialty food sales swelled in 2009. NaturalFoodsMerchandiser.com. 15 Apr. 2010. Web. 29 Apr. 2010; Specialty Food for the Powerful Twenty-Somethings. SpecialtyFood.com. n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2010]