NEW YORK – Specialty food is drawing a new crowd this year. Men are stepping up purchases, less affluent shoppers are buying a wide variety of products like artisanal cheese and single-origin chocolate, and millennials are showing their age at the store, according to the Specialty Food Association.
New consumer research from the Specialty Food Association, in conjunction with Mintel International, found that specialty food consumers spent one in three food dollars on specialty food, up from one in four in 2014. This comes as specialty food sales topped $100 billion for the first time in 2014 and continue to grow, according to the research.
While food shopping used to be seen as a woman’s work, for the first time since this research began in 2005, men have surpassed women slightly as most likely to purchase specialty food. The prized millennial consumer is starting to get older, and those pushing 40 are spending more on meal ingredients than the snacks and treats favored by the younger set. Consumers with annual incomes of $75,000 are twice as likely as those earning less than $50,000 to be specialty food buyers, yet the less affluent are buying the same wide range of specialty foods.
“As the market grows, the specialty food consumer is evolving,” says Denise Purcell, head of content for the Specialty Food Association. “There are opportunities for food makers and retailers to grow their businesses by appealing to new audiences and changing needs.”
Treats are also trending. Consumers rank perennial specialty food favorites cheese and chocolate among their top five picks, in addition to ice cream and frozen desserts; coffee, and cookies, brownies, cakes and pies. Foods seen as healthy, such as tea, yogurt and kefir, and nuts, seeds, and dried fruit and vegetables, are rising in popularity.
Some of the research highlights include:
• Core specialty food consumers are ages 25-44 with household income of $75,000+ and live on the East or West Coast.
• Specialty food consumers spend $113 per week on food they prepare at home, up from $92 per week in 2014.
• 52 percent of specialty food consumers say they purchase specialty food online. Nearly one third said they are looking for an online delivery service.
• Millennials favor convenience: they shop in the broadest range of retail outlets and spend the most on takeout and ready-to-eat meals.
• About one in three specialty food dollars are spent on products with an all-natural or organic claim.
• 43 percent of those surveyed said they try new specialty foods to eat foods that avoid artificial ingredients and preservatives.
• 71 percent of specialty food buyers use their phones for grocery and restaurant activities.