The world has yet to stop shifting dramatically. From the pandemic to inflation, retailers and brands alike have had to quickly adjust expectations and strategies, with the risk of being left behind. This was on full display at the Fancy Foods Show put on by the Specialty Foods Association (SFA). From Sunday, June 12 to Tuesday, June 14, the Javits Center in the heart of New York City was packed with vendors, distributors, established and emerging brands, all fighting to stand out from the crowd and breakthrough to the thousands of attendees who perused their booths. By far, the most common strategy brands utilized to differentiate themselves was by promising a healthy product. As David Lockwood, a leading Consumer Market Research and Strategy Consultant, stated in his presentation on the state of the specialty food industry, “what we eat continues to be more important to the average citizen”. This was apparent, as it was nearly impossible to walk down a show aisle and not see multiple booths supporting products that were organically sourced, keto-friendly, and plant-based, along with a number of other health benefits. According to a recent SFA report, in collaboration with SPINS (a wellness-focused data technology company), 2020 saw a 22% growth in specialty plant-based sales performance over 2019, and 2021 saw an additional 4% increase in the category.
While healthier alternatives shine as the key component of many products, it’s not the only trend that shoppers are favoring. The pandemic may have slowed life down for some, but the world still moves quickly, and consumers are careful with how they spend their time. Convenience continues to grow as a major factor in which products shoppers add to their carts. On the list of the fastest-growing food categories from 2019 to 2021, are refrigerated (ready-to-drink coffees and teas) and frozen (appetizers and snacks) products. The data aligns with consumer sentiment here, as 22% of consumers say they would be motivated to try a new product if it came in a prepared pack, 53% anticipate using convenience foods in the future, and 76% say they are looking for foods that are easy to prepare (Mattucci). Make no mistake, shoppers do not want to sacrifice the quality of the products in their cart, as 67% of US consumers think it’s worth paying more for products of higher quality (Mattucci).
Where there are positives for brands to latch onto, there are also cautions for them to avoid. It is important for brands to capitalize on trends, but not fall into the trap of fads. A final, but no less important takeaway from the fun and insightful three days of trying new products and hearing from industry leaders; brands and companies can no longer confine themselves to the aisles. As social responsibility has become a priority for many people, consumers look to purchase from brands that reflect their values. Now more than ever, consumers are paying attention to the brands they buy from and the impact those brands have on the world around them. It can be a fine line to walk between the quality, convenience, health, and social responsibility that shoppers are looking for, but those brands that accomplish it will be heavily rewarded. It was an exciting three days in New York City, but more than anything it was great to be back, walking the floor and talking face-to-face with companies from across the world. We hope to see you next year at the Winter Fancy Foods Show!
Mattucci, S. (2021). (rep.). The Future of Pasta, Rice, and Noodles Market Report 2021. Mintel.
Retrieved June 17, 2022, from https://store.mintel.com/report/the-future-of-pasta-rice-noodles-market-research-report
By: Nick Schramm