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SFA: Specialty food market ripe with growth opportunities

SFA: Specialty food market ripe with growth opportunities

Opportunities for increased sales of specialty foods exist among lower income consumers and the roughly 24.5 million Americans who are familiar with specialty foods but don’t currently purchase products in the space.

That’s according to the findings from Today’s Specialty Food Consumer 2015, an online survey conducted in July by Mintel on behalf of the Specialty Food Association.

“The gourmet food and drink market is performing very well with the total market reaching nearly $110 billion in 2014,” said David Browne, a market research and retail consultant with Mintel, during a webinar presentation of the findings Monday. “Retail sales account for 78% of sales.”

Supermarkets lead the list of places that specialty food consumers purchase these products, with 67% indicating they shop the channel, followed by natural food stores, shopped by 44%. The most popular specialty products are cheese and ice cream/frozen desserts, both purchased by 34% of specialty consumers, followed by chocolate (31%), coffee (29%) and cookies, cakes, brownies and pies (28%).

While specialty food consumers tend to be affluent — with those earning $75,000 or more twice as likely as those earning $50,000 to buy specialty foods — the survey findings indicate that there are opportunities for growth with people who earn less.

“People who are in a range of incomes that is less than $25,000 to $50,000, buy specialty foods in many segments across the board,” said Denise Purcell, head of content at SFA. “They range from treats to meal ingredients and part of this may be because specialty brands are becoming widely available through mass merchants and are therefore more recognizable and familiar, but the consumers are very engaged in this market. It’s not just affluent consumers.”

In an effort to compare awareness of specialty foods with purchase behavior, researchers asked respondents if they’d heard the term “specialty foods,” and 70% of adults confirmed that they had.


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“For those who said ‘yes’ we asked to what degree they understood the term. Roughly 80% of those who heard the term said they understand it ‘pretty well’ or ‘very well’,” said Browne who related that this translates to 57% of all adults.

“When asked if they purchased these products in the last six months, only 47% said they did. So the best opportunity would be to focus on the consumers who know of and understand the term but aren’t currently buying in this market. That gap translates to 24.5 million Americans, so that’s a huge opportunity.”

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