Specialty Baby Food Sales on the Rise

Baby food experienced the largest sales growth in the specialty food market between 2006 and 2008, according to the annual State of the Specialty Food Industry, by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, Mintel International and SPINS.

NEW YORK — Baby food experienced the largest sales growth in the specialty food market between 2006 and 2008, according to the annual State of the Specialty Food Industry, by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, Mintel International and SPINS.

Specialty baby food generated $58 million in sales at retail (excluding Wal-Mart and Trader Joe’s), a 69% increase from 2006, according to the report.

“People are looking for more specialty baby food,” said Ron Tanner, NASFT’s vice president for communications and education, said yesterday in a webinar about the report.

As reported in SN, parents are increasingly seeking out frozen and other specialty baby food with no additives, preservatives, genetically modified ingredients, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, high-fructose corn syrup or pesticides.

Baby food is one of three specialty categories that had more than a 50% sales growth between 2006 and 2008. Yogurt/kefir and refrigerated juices/functional beverages were the other two.

Meanwhile, specialty food generated $48 billion in retail sales last year, an 8.4% increase over 2007.

While overall sales are up, new product introductions are down. In 2008, 2,349 specialty food products were introduced, vs. 3,158 in 2007.

“We feel that’s a result of these economic times, and [manufacturers] focusing on core products,” said Tanner.

Among other highlights, 58% of specialty food manufacturers report that sales decreased in 2008 due to the economy, while 15% say that 2008 sales were up 10% or more. And cheese and cheese alternatives, with sales of $3.4 billion, is the largest specialty food category.

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