Peanut butter and jelly, macaroni and cheese, red beans and rice—like all perfect pairs, gourmet and natural seem made for each other. It’s not hard to see why. With gourmet’s emphasis on quality ingredients, small-batch production and well-developed flavors, the overlap is inevitable. Naturals retailers introducing gourmet products into their stores are setting themselves up for success.
“Natural-channel shoppers have a close relationship with food and thus may find appeal and a sense of adventure in products that also have gourmet flair,” says Mary Ellen Lynch, director of consumer insights for SPINS, a market research firm based in Schaumburg, Ill. “This receptiveness is blurring the lines between the specialty and natural channels, and is supporting growth of specialty natural products.”
In 2010, sales of specialty natural products showed considerable growth across all channels—including an impressive 15.6 percent increase in natural stores, excluding Whole Foods Market, according to SPINS. Research also shows that customers are increasingly looking for these items. “In 2010, 63 percent of all consumers reported that they purchased specialty foods, a dramatic leap over the 46 percent that reported a purchase in 2009 and also higher than the 56 percent who bought in 2008,” says Ron Tanner, spokesman for the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade.