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US - General Market Overview

Specialty foods are no longer limited to a small segment of the US market, but have become and continue  the  trend in becoming mainstream, as more products are available in major outlets and a higher age of consumers begin to purchase specialty food items.  In 2010, 63% of consumers purchased specialty foods; a 37% increase over 2009, according to "Today's Specialty Food Consumer 2010," the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade's (NASFT) annual report on consumer purchasing habits and trends1. The increase to 63% of consumers purchasing specialty foods in 2010 from 46% in 2009, according to Ron Tanner, the NASFT's Vice President, means that "51 million consumers have come back to specialty foods after cutting their spending  during 2008  and 2009". It is still important to note however that more consumers 70% are buying specialty foods as "treats," not as everyday staples, Tanner indicated. This figure is also an increase - up from 61% in 2009.

Some industry highlights according to NASFT's annual State of the Specialty  Food Industry 2011 are listed below:

  • Total US sales of specialty foods in 2010 were $70.32 billion, with $14.4 billion represented by sales to the food service industry. $55.92 billion was sold at the retail level.
  •  Specialty foods represent 13.3 % of all food sales at retail.
  • Natural food stores are the fastest 14.1% between 2008 and 2010.
  • Mediterranean and Indian are the most influential emerging cuisines, importers say.
  • 76% of specialty food manufacturers reported a sales increase in 2010, with 36% up more than 20%.
  • Gluten-free introductions showed sharp gains, with 119 new products in 2010 versus 67 in 2009.
  • Supermarkets remain the largest seller of specialty foods, with 72.3% of sales, but their share is dipping as specialty and natural food stores attract more consumers.
  • The average specialty food manufacturer produces 51 different items  and brings in $2.3  million in annual sales.
  • The Fancy Food Shows, customer recommendations and trade magazines are the most important sources for discovering new products, retailers reported.