NEW YORK -- Data from ACNielsen, SPECTRA Marketing, Information Resources, and Catalina Marketing confirm earlier findings of research done by Willard Bishop Consulting that the specialty food consumer drives a supermarket's business.
According to research compiled by John Roberts, president of the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, New York, and Bill Skura, managing director of Wasa North America, Saddle Brook, N.J., the specialty consumer buys 31% more food than the average customer and is more loyal to supermarkets. Specialty food consumers buy 53% of their food in supermarkets and drop 80% of their grocery dollars there, in comparison to an average consumer, who buys 47% of her food at the grocery store and spends 50% of her food dollars there.
The research cross-referenced Catalina, Nielsen, SPECTRA, and IRI data. Each company was asked to run 24 specialty brands through their databases and find the market baskets of people who buy specialty items. The result was a composite of the specialty food consumer.
The goal of the Specialty Foods Manufacturers and Distributors Association, which commissioned the original Willard Bishop study, is to "improve the attitude of senior management [in the supermarket business]," said Skura.
"They don't think strategically yet, and they must start to see specialty food as a strategic advantage. Currently, specialty food is being serviced by a specialty food distributor, and it is not valued for its importance," Skura continued.
Roberts noted that "We are at the end of the era when products were judged by volume or market share or category gross margin or item gross margin. We are entering a period where product will be judged by overall value to the store of customers who purchase that product. Everyone has [now] figured out that 30% of customers are doing 80% of the volume."
Roberts and Skura have also spotted some key trends in the specialty food area and will be reporting on these, as well as their research findings, at the Fancy Food Show in New York this week. Some of the trends include:
More geographical segmentation of products is evident: For example, olive oil from Tuscany, or tart cherries from Michigan, or jam from Oregon.
Organic is invading mainstream categories like popcorn and pasta, and natural food companies like Hain or Celestial Seasonings are adding new items.
In the confection categories, special-occasion items like Ghirardelli chocolate or Mauna Loa macadamia nuts are becoming everyday items.
Mediterranean offerings no longer come mostly from Italy, but also from Greece, Spain, Turkey, Morocco, Israel, and even Chile.