More U.S. consumers favouring specialty food: survey

11/9/2012

More and more consumers are making specialty foods part of their at-home meals, according to the results of an online questionnaire from the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, Inc. (NASFT) and Mintel International.

The survey asked American adults where they shop, what they buy and what why.

“We were surprised–and happy–finding that the usage level of specialty food is rising,” said Louise Kramer, NASFT’s communication director.

This year’s annual report, Specialty Food Consumers 2012, found that 66 per cent of U.S. consumers purchased specialty foods within the past six months, a healthy jump from 59 per cent in 2011 and 46 per cent in 2009.

Among those who buy specialty food,  22 per cent of their total food dollars spent each week go on specialty foods.

A number of factors can be attributed to the upswing, said Kramer. Although consumers’ spending habits have changed during the economic decline, a slight improvement in the economy means that people are more willing to buy affordable luxuries such as premium chocolate or cheese to serve at a dinner party or as part of everyday meals at home.

Specialty foods were defined for the survey as foods of premium quality that are often made by small or local manufacturers, or have ethnic or exotic flavours–foods that are distinctive.

Top specialty categories for all age groups include chocolate, olive oil and other specialty oils, cheese, yogurt/kefir and coffee.

More than two-thirds of specialty food consumers said they will spend more for quality ingredients and nearly the same percentage purchase ingredients from different countries for specific recipes.

Although all demographic groups purchase specialty foods, young people between 25 and 34 are most likely, a trend Kramer suggests is fueled by younger consumers’ adventurous approach to food, the popularity of TV cooking shows and the use of social media, especially Facebook.

Supermarkets remain the favourite outlet to buy specialty foods (72 per cent), but other top locations include natural food stores (36 per cent), mass merchandisers (34 per cent), farmers markets (34 per cent) and delis (28 per cent).

“Consumers who buy specialty foods are interested in the story behind the food, where it comes from and who makes it,” said Kramer. “Grocers should focus on differentiating specialty foods by using demos, sampling, price promotions and signage to share information about the products. People like to know the specialty food they consider buying is authentic as opposed to mass produced.

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