Galloping gourmet

Consumers’ desire to try new and exotic things coupled with record-breaking gourmet product sales makes stocking an extensive gourmet selection a winning bet.

The supermarket gourmet foods sales trifecta is ancient grain, followed by spicy import and all-natural organic. Astute retailers that bet on all three can laugh all the way to the bank.

“Today, people are cooking more at home and require creative options for their entertaining needs,” says Janine Somers, director of marketing at Stonewall Kitchen, based in York, Maine. “By using gourmet ingredients and products, consumers are able to enhance their homemade dishes into decadent meals. Trends stonewallkitchenwe have seen in the gourmet category include developing innovative flavor profiles and textures such as combining sweet and savory.”

According to the Specialty Food Association, the New York-based not-for-profit trade association for the gourmet food industry and presenter of the Summer Fancy Food Show, sales rose 14.3% to $86 billion in 2012, marking the third consecutive increase and more than doubling the 6.8% jump recorded in 2011. Buyers will be sampling the latest in gourmet foods at the Summer Fancy Food Show at New York’s Jacob Javits Convention Center, June 30 – July 2.

Gourmet sales are being led by upscale yogurts, kefir, energy bars, functional beverages and ancient grains, like quinoa and amaranth. “Quinoa is the ingredient of the moment and exports from Peru are really rising to fuel the demand,” says Louise Kramer, communications director at the Specialty Foods Association. “We are seeing a lot of chia too. Both are high in nutrients and specialty food manufacturers are getting creative using them. There is even a quinoa candy.”

Private label supplier Topco Associates has introduced a line of all-natural, fast-cooking grains under its Full Circle brand, available in Barley, Peas & Lentils; Five Grains; Italian Farro; Bulgur & Red Quinoa; and Basmati Rice, Oats & Lentils varieties.

The line is targeted to millennials, says Elaine Henderson, program manager, at Elk Grove Village, Ill.-based Topco Associates. “Millennials have palates that are more adventurous and sophisticated,” she says. “They are also eager to explore lesser-known cuisines with unique flavor combinations. These award-winning items have been successful for other retailers around the world, and Topco is committed to bringing these types of innovative items to our members.”

Henderson says Topco offers private label gourmet in more than 70 categories.
For many retailers, spices, with their high margins and dollar rings, present the ideal gourmet launching pad opportunity. “From what we are seeing from a new product perspective, it is all about sauces and condiments—anything that has spice related to it,” says Lisa Kartzman, director of public relations at New York-based American Roland Foods. “Hot sauces are hot. We have just launched harissa, sambal and a chili garlic sauce. We think those are very much on-trend.”

According to Tim Lawhorn, CEO of Lawhorn’s Corner, the Haines City, Fla.-based manufacturer of the Lawhorn’s Signature Seasonings line, retailers can increase gourmet food sales dramatically if they offer in-store demonstrations using spices and seasonings. “Demonstrating our line opens customers up to the fact that one seasoning can do all the proteins—pork, chicken, beef, lamb and seafood,” he says. “We have found it produces such a real gourmet taste and naturally enhances the protein with a great flavor.”

Natural foods are increasingly falling into the gourmet realm.

SnackMasters, based in Ceres, Calif., manufactures gourmet beef, turkey, salmon and Ahi tuna jerky that is all-natural and free of MSG and other artificial ingredients and preservatives. “When my dad started the company 32 years ago, he was ahead of his time because all-natural wasn’t important to conventional retailers back then,” says Sue Ferrara, sales manager. “They were only buying it because their customers liked it.”

Imported gourmet items are also becoming more popular, especially from countries known for using top-notch, organic and all-natural ingredients, like Great Britain. “At the Summer Fancy Food Show we will be highlighting products from the English Provender Co., including its new Very Lazy line of chopped ginger, chopped garlic, chopped chilis, lemon curd and chutneys,” says Marie Christoffersen, brand manager, Fever Tree, at Brands of Britain based in San Ramone, Calif.

Fever Tree’s Sparkling Lemon mixer is up for the show’s sofi award. “This will be the fourth year in a row that we’ve been a finalist on that line and we’re very excited,” Christoffersen says.

Walkers Shortbread will be sampling its new Chocolate Scottie Dogs cookies at the Fancy Food Show. “Our original Scottie Dogs were introduced just over a year ago and have already become our third best selling item, so we are convinced our Chocolate Scottie Dogs, made with Belgian chocolate chips, will do phenomenally,” says Lisa Sherman, brand manager, at the Hauppauge, N.Y.-based company.

Bradley Simpson and Michael Duffield, partners in Fruition, a Los Angeles-based “from concept to cart” food development firm, will be scouting the show floor looking for new clients to add to their roster. Among their current clients is Haks BBQ Sauce, which they discovered at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. “Not only the taste, but also the packaging is fantastic,” says Duffield. “If you were to see it on the grocery store shelf with all the big brands it would be the one your eye naturally goes to.”

The Gourmet Sugar Co. is another Fruition client. “You know how gourmet salts are all the rage?” Simpson asks. “Well, Jennifer Pike who owns this company does gourmet sugars that are compressed into different designs and can be flavored too. I really think gourmet sugar is going to be the next cool, up-and-coming idea.”

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