How can you satisfy shoppers' changing tastes?

I missed out on the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco last weekend. Our editor, Anna Soref, went in my place—lucky gal (check out her blog about the show). Although I couldn’t attend in person, I did catch wind of the top five trends selected by a panel of food experts who scouted the expo floor. Because gourmet and natural and organic are undoubtedly intersecting these days, natural products retailers are wise to pay attention to what’s happening in specialty foods. Here, I share the key trends, plus ways NFM is digging into each topic in order to help you capitalize on them ASAP.

1. Good-for-you foods. This may be news to the mainstream crowd, but NFM has been covering the topic for more than 25 years. That said, the fact that the panel called out this trend means you can expect more new shoppers entering your store. Be ready to educate and serve them by checking out our related recent story, “A New Naturals Consumer.”

2. Coconut. In our soon-to-be-published February 2010 issue, we crack open the coconut category, covering nutrition and sourcing issues as well as new products, from butter and flour to yogurt and water, to stock.

3. Gluten free. According to NFM's most recent retailer survey, gluten free is the 3rd most popular expansion goal for retailers, after local and organic. In NFM’s September 2009 issue, we included a special section devoted to gluten free. We also launched an online guide to food allergies. At Natural Products Expo West in March, I will moderate a session entitled “From Gluten to Casein to Nuts: Helping Consumers Avoid Common Food Allergens.” This session will feature a detailed overview of common food allergies and intolerances from a dietician’s perspective and offer actionable advice on how manufacturers and retailers can find sales opportunities by meeting the needs of consumers looking for allergy-free foods and beverages. Nutrition Business Journal will provide a sales and growth analysis for gluten-free and allergy-free foods and beverages. Check it out on Friday, March 12, from 12:30 to 2 p.m.

4. Exotic citrus. In NFM’s upcoming March 2010 issue, columnist Mark Mulcahy, founder of Organic Options, an organic education and produce consulting firm, will highlight several spring picks: Mandarin oranges, tangerines and kumquats.

5. Nostalgic foods. Grandma’s Bolognese sauce, perhaps. How is this trend playing out in your store today? What new products have you seen that fit this theme? I'll be looking for it to make an appearance at Expo West.

Other big trends that didn’t quite make the upper ranks include fermented foods, smoked foods and snacks for grown-ups, such as spicy popcorn and baked potato chips with jalapeno.

Hungry anyone?

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