Natural Foods Merchandiser
3 natural products emerging in specialty stores

3 natural products emerging in specialty stores

There's a blurring of the lines in the natural and specialty categories as gourmet consumers increasingly want healthier ingredients.

Naturals consumers may experience a feeling of déjà vu when they check out the latest offerings from specialty and gourmet producers. At the winter Fancy Food Show taking place January 16-18 in the Moscone Center in San Francisco, Kathryn Peters, senior vice president of business development for SPINS, a Schaumburg, Ill.-based market research firm, presented three natural foods trends about to cross over into specialty stores.

"Natural and specialty consumers look for the same qualities in food products," Peters said in a Sunday education session. "It's how they rank those qualities, that differs." While naturals consumers value  nutrition and sourcing information before flavor, gourmet consumers do just the opposite. Still, Peters suggested, there's a blurring of the lines on both sides of the fence, and gourmet consumers increasingly want healthier ingredients. She cited SPINS data that showed natural product sales in specialty and gourmet stores grew 7.3 percent in 2010. Peters predicted the following natural food store staples to get a gourmet makeover in 2011.

The gluten-free trend is slowly moving into the specialty category and quinoa is the grain of choice to replace wheat. Should gluten free lose steam, don't expect quinoa relegated back to the bulk bin. Aside from the fact that the Andean superfood provides 10 essential amino acids and is high protein, it offers an earthy taste foodies love in products where rice was once the only standby, Peters said.

Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes will take off in the gourmet snack and frozen category—but not as fries and chips, Peters said. Manufacturers are experimenting with the subtly sweet tubers, which are high in vitamins A and C, in savory products.  

While vegan is nothing new to naturals consumers, the products will see tastier makeovers in specialty stores as gourmet consumers become increasingly aware of the vegan movement. "We're seeing more celebrity endorsements," Peters said. "It's becoming chic. As the trend heightens, specialty manufacturers see a window to make better products."

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