gourmet trends
A look at the top tastes and directions in the giftable specialty food market.

by Kelsey E. Smith

Although many consumers’ purse strings are still pulled tight, the specialty food industry has actually thrived, reaching a record $75.1 billion in sales in the United States last year, according to the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT). Retail sales grew 9.2 percent between 2010 and 2011, making a strong case for offering gourmet food products and baskets in your shop.

“Specialty foods make great gifts, and they’re affordable luxuries,” says Louise Kramer, communications director for the NASFT. “People may have been forced to dine out less, but they’re still interested in good food.”

top product trends for 2012
A panel of trendspotters at the 2012 Summer Fancy Food Show in Washington, D.C., identified the following five trends as the most prevalent so far this year.

1. Small Batch Mixers - Cocktail add-ins continue to grow in sophistication as consumers bring the bar to their kitchens, and mixers that can be used for sweet and savory marinades also are popular. Products with a specialty slant and unique flavor profiles—including drinking vinegars and simple syrups—take center stage in this trend, which is driven by nostalgia/tradition, sustainability and handmade artisan work.
2. Local Global - Ethnic flavors don’t have to be shipped from overseas. The modern flavor combinations of this trend are locally produced and give the sense of a special find at a neighborhood store or farmers’ market. Not surprisingly, local support and nostalgia/tradition are among the trend’s driving factors along with consumers’ desire for flavor adventures.
3. Cookie Cracker Crunch - The products in this category may be sweet and savory or sweet and salty, but they’re always crunchy. Ties in both the “Outstanding Cracker” and “Outstanding Cookie” categories at the NASFT’s sofi Awards during the Summer Fancy Food Show display the depth of this trend, with many products’ true identities nearly indistinguishable. Products spotted at the show include brownie crunch, all-natural cookie chips and dessert crackers. Health and wellness, texture, and indulgence are driving this trend.
4. The New South - The South may be known for its heavy fried foods, but the New South focuses on homey, indulgent flavors with a kick, including bourbon, pimento and pecans. Regional pride drives flavor adventures in relishes, sauces and more.
5. Chocolate Change-Ups - Not just for candy bars, cookies and desserts, chocolate is showing up as an ingredient in a variety of unexpected products, including jams, teas and even sea-salt blends. This concept further extends the “Chocolate for Breakfast” trend, which NASFT trendspotters identified at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco last January.

Other trends identified are pistachio in desserts; beer as an ingredient in jams, chocolates and crackers; coffee and chocolate combinations; and rosemary in sweets. ■

... To read more, look to the August 2012 issue of Florists' Review.

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