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Feeling Special

Like most 9 to 5ers I usually hit the snooze button a few times on Monday mornings, but not today since I’m headed to the National Association of Specialty Food Trade’s Summer Fancy Food Show! My mouth’s been watering all weekend.

It’s not everyday that I get to dine with Food Channel royalty, but breakfast with the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten is first on the agenda. She’ll be peddling her line of high-end baking mixes, jams and coffee.

Then it’s off to the Javitz Center where I’ll join 23,000 attendees at the show.

According to NASFT’s estimates more than 2,300 exhibitors, representing more than 70 countries will be there, including newcomers from Sri Lanka and Vietnam. This year's show also boasts the largest French pavilion to date.

I’m looking forward to hearing about what retailers are shopping for, and getting a sense for what's caught their eye so far. I'm also hoping to gauge how significantly the economy has effected specialty sales.

From what Ann Daw, president of the NASFT, has heard, exhibitors are hopeful that despite the economy, consumers will recognize the value that their fine teas, olive oil, snacks, chocolates and ethnic foods possess.

“Many exhibitors have expressed cautious optimism that shoppers will increase purchases of specialty and natural foods to enjoy at home, even as they dine out less at restaurants,” she said in a statement.

The results of a recent Information Resources Inc. Times & Trends report shows that there’s reason for their measured confidence. It found that despite the turbulent economy 16% of shoppers are splurging on premium and gourmet products on a regular basis.

But before specialty suppliers toast their fresh-squeezed blood orange juice, they should know that such spending comes with a caveat. IRI reports that since most of these shoppers are still very mindful of price, they’re seeking gourmet fare in wholesale club stores and other value channels.