Despite Economic Woes, Specialty Food Shoppers Still Buying: NASFT

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Despite Economic Woes, Specialty Food Shoppers Still Buying: NASFT

Although the recession has cut into profits of the $60 billion specialty food industry – according to recent research from the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, Inc. (NASFT), 57 percent of specialty food consumers said they’ve reduced or changed their spending over the past year, and 52 percent said they would continue to do so in the next year – the dismal economy has prompted more specialty food shoppers to cook at home more frequently and pre-plan more meals. And these consumers are still indulging in such affordable treats as chocolate and cheese.

The New York-based trade organization’s annual report on consumer spending habits and trends, “Today’s Specialty Food Consumer 2009,” employed research conducted in July 2009 by Mintel International and Greenfield Online, based on a survey of 1,500 adults age 18 and older.

The report found that almost half of all Americans buy specialty foods, although numbers fell in the past year. In 2009, 46 percent of consumers said they bought specialty foods within the past six months.

Although many respondents noted they’ve economized on such food purchases because of job losses and pay cuts, they still buy specialty foods for entertaining and gift purposes. They additionally characterize their cutbacks on specialty foods as only temporary. Overall, an estimated 138 million American consumers are buying specialty food.

“With the holidays approaching, specialty foods are in a good position to attract discerning consumers who are looking for new gift ideas and distinctive foods and drinks to share with guests,” said NASFT VP, communications Ron Tanner.

Of the specialty food consumers who took part in the survey, 82 percent said they’re cooking at home more often. Those with the highest incomes are more likely to give specialty foods as gifts and to keep on hand at home for unexpected guests, while shoppers with lower incomes use premium foods to impress friends and families.

Additional highlights of the study include:

--The average specialty food consumer spends $111 per week on food
--People ages 18 to 34 are the most likely buy specialty foods
--Supermarkets are the main source for specialty foods
--Local sourcing is the most important factor in specialty purchases
--Hispanics are more likely purchasers of specialty food than those of other ethnic backgrounds
--Organic foods appeal most to those ages 35 to 44.
--Female specialty food consumers are spending 7 percent more on weekly food purchases than they did in 2007, while men are spending nearly 7 percent less

A webinar held earlier this month, hosted by Amy Leslie of the NASTF and featuring Tanner and Marcia Mogelonsky of Chicago-based Mintel International, provided commentary and insight on the research.

The full report and the webinar are available for purchase at