7 Takeaways From The SFA's Annual State Of The Specialty Food Industry Research

The Specialty Food Association recently released its State of the Specialty Food Industry research, 2019-2020 Edition, which examines market size and sales; dollar and unit sales growth; specialty food category penetration; growth forecasts in key categories; and consumer demographics, habits, and preferences. Following are seven top takeaways from this year's research:

1.    Plant based is going strong. Mintel estimates that the retail market for plant-based specialty items grew 24 percent from 2016 to 2018, and now accounts for nearly 5 percent of the total specialty food and beverage market. What’s more, one-third of SFCs surveyed reported buying a plant-based food or beverage. This lifestyle movement doesn’t appear to be slowing anytime soon.
2.    Specialty beverages are increasingly a force in the market. Collectively, the $11.8 billion segment grew faster than food from 2016 to 2018. Consumer survey data shows that half of the top 10 selling categories are beverages, both RTD and non. Water and sparkling water lead the pack of what SFCs report they purchase most often and are among beverages that Mintel forecasts growing over the next five years.
3.    Younger consumers don’t look to supermarkets for quick meals. The overall rise in foodservice sales and spend is already pressuring conventional retail. Add to that that while young specialty food consumers are programmed to seek quick options and meal delivery, they don’t turn to supermarket restaurants/cafes or fresh foods/deli sections as frequently as other age groups to meet this need.  This could be the start of a worrisome pattern, sales wise, if supermarkets don’t engage Gen Zs with the right atmosphere and selections.
4.    Reduced packaging and food waste are hot points. Retailers that outwardly emphasize recycling or reduced packaging resonate with 33 percent of all consumers surveyed, slightly higher than a similar concept of food waste reduction. Both these concepts are newsworthy and retailers and brands should take note with consumer-facing marketing strategies and action plans.
5.    The c-store channel is an under-tapped market for specialty items. Though some upscale c-store concepts such as Goods Mart and Choice Market are starting to open in the U.S., many conventional c-stores aren’t yet savvy when it comes to sourcing the best specialty products and merchandising them. These chains tend to focus on impulse purchases instead of building loyalty among shoppers. A shift is beginning with existing chains addressing the need to offer more clean label and premium products, but there is a lot room for opportunity.
6.    Foodservice needs to move to greater customization. Customization at restaurants is equally popular among SFCs and non SFCs, illustrating how much the feature is expected. While some dietary requests are common, a cultural move is taking place toward greater customer control for requests large and small. The more foodservice outlets can do to promote customization the more likely it is to result in more customers.
7.    Opportunity lies in breakfast. This year’s research looked specifically at time-of-day occasions for consumers who report buying specialty foods for meals at home. Breakfast has emerged as a growing opportunity, especially with two groups of strong specialty food consumers—Gen Xers and men. Prepared and packaged foods that address this desire could open sales.

You can purchase the 188-page State of the Specialty Food Industry Full Report and Category Tracking and Forecasts here at a member discount.
Posted by Denise Purcell on Aug 7, 2019 11:30 AM America/New_York