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Specialty food sales at retail totaled $48 billion in 2008, which represents an 8.4 percent increase over 2007. This data and other research indicating that the specialty food business is still growing in spite of a challenging economy, was presented last week by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT) in an industry Webinar entitled “State of the Specialty Food Industry 2009.”
The presentation, a joint research project prepared by Mintel International and SPINS, encompassed three years of sales data (2006-2008) for 47 specialty food segments, pulled from the SPINS and Nielsen database of mainstream and natural food stores. To reach the grand total of sales, Mintel added estimated sales of products that were not collected by scanner data, including PLU sales through all channels.
Ron Tanner, NASFT’s VP of communications, education, government & industry relations, led the Webinar along with Mintel senior research analyst Marcia Mogelonsky. They believe that the poor economy may actually be having a positive effect on the specialty food business, as more consumers look to cut back on restaurant dining and “trade up” on the kinds of specialty, natural and organic items they buy for home.
They reported that the specialty food industry recorded strong sales in 2008, but that recessionary blues in the fourth quarter led to a leveling of sales. Working with Mintel International and SPINS, the NASFT and Specialty Food Magazine have tracked sales of specialty food through supermarkets, natural food stores and specialty food retailers.
Some of the highlights from their presentation are as follows: the total specialty food industry recorded $60 billion in sales in 2008. Specialty food accounts for 15.9 percent of all retail food sales. Fifty-eight percent of specialty food manufacturers report that sales decreased in 2008 due to the economy, while 15 percent say that 2008 sales were up 10 percent or more.
The category of “cheese and cheese alternatives,” with sales of $3.4 billion, is the largest specialty food category. In terms of categories on the move, it’s baby food, yogurt and kefir, and refrigerated juices and functional beverages that are charging ahead. All three grew more than 50 percent in sales between 2006 and 2008.
Stay tuned for more coverage of “State of the Specialty Food Industry 2009” in tomorrow’s Progressive Grocer daily e-newsletter.