Shoppers choose to purchase chocolate more than any other specialty food item, according to new research from the Specialty Food Association.
Specialty food also eats up a bigger share of its consumers’ food budgets in 2014; one in four food dollars go to specialty food products. With chocolate as their most preferred purchase, olive oil, cheese, coffee and salty snacks round out the top five. Chocolate is also the top pick for a gift.
But it’s not all even across the board. Millennials, who spend more on specialty foods than other age groups, stick with chocolate as their number one buy, in line with their preference for ready-to-eat snacks. However, the boomer generation and older people tend to buy specialty food items to stock their pantry for use in home cooking, buying olive oil most frequently.
Still, specialty foods are a part of these consumers’ eating habits no matter their specific preferences.
“Overall, specialty food consumers have these foods and beverages on hand for regular usage, whether as an everyday snack or meal or as a treat,” says Denise Purcell, senior director of content development for the Specialty Food Association. “This daily engagement bodes well for the market as a whole.”
Specialty food consumers are about evenly split on whether to shop online.
For chocolate, however, shoppers largely prefer to buy in-store, with only 14 percent ordering off the Web. For in-person shopping, supermarkets are the main location to buy specialty foods, drawing about two-thirds of consumers, followed by natural food stores and mass merchandisers, both at about one-third of consumers.
Environmental and health concerns remain a trend in the specialty food market. Eighty-four percent of specialty food consumers, and 77 percent of all consumers, believe it is important to buy sustainably produced food, and most express their beliefs with their wallet by supporting such companies.
Almost half of consumers reported their increased willingness to try new foods if they are natural and healthful, and 82 percent read nutrition labels. Though a product’s nutritional shortcomings may be ignored in favor of flavor — taste is the number one reason for trying a new product.