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The hottest trend in food retailing is getting hotter


What growth there is in the food channel these days is being driven by specialty products and the trend shows no sign of abating.

Specialty foods sales topped $100 billion for the first time in 2014 and continue to grow this year, according to new research from the Specialty Food Association (SFA). The trade group’s consumer research shows that among those identified as specialty foods consumers, specialty foods purchase now account for a third of food spending compared to one-fourth the prior year. Specialty food consumers spend $113 per week on food they prepare at home, up from $92 per week in 2014, according to the SFA.

"As the market grows, the specialty food consumer is evolving," said Denise Purcell, head of content for the Specialty Food Association. "There are opportunities for food makers and retailers to grow their businesses by appealing to new audiences and changing needs."

An online survey of 1,683 adults revealed the following insights regarding specialty foods behaviors:

  • For the first time since the research was conducted a year ago, men have surpassed women as most likely to purchase specialty food.

  • The millennial consumer is starting to get older, and those pushing 40 are spending more on meal ingredients than the snacks and treats favored by the younger set.

  • Consumers with annual incomes of $75,000 are twice as likely as those earning less than $50,000 to be specialty food buyers, yet the less affluent are buying the same wide range of specialty foods.

  • Consumers rank perennial specialty food favorites cheese and chocolate among their top five picks, plus ice cream and frozen desserts; coffee, and cookies, brownies, cakes and pies. Foods seen as healthy, such as tea, yogurt and kefir, and nuts, seeds, and dried fruit and vegetables, are rising in popularity.

  • More than half of specialty food consumers say they purchase specialty food online. Nearly one-third said they are looking for an online delivery service.

  • About one in three specialty food dollars are spent on products with an all-natural or organic claim and 43% of those surveyed said they try new specialty foods to eat foods that avoid artificial ingredients and preservatives.

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