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Specialty Foods Continues to Tempt Americans Palate

Fancy Food Show Highlights New Innovations

American consumers are once again expanding their purchases of specialty foods after a period of decline. Sales of specialty foods rose to $70.32 billion in 2010 and represented 13.1% of food sales at retail. The increased sales represented a 7.7% increase in 2010 after a slow period of growth in 2009 represented only a 4.5% growth rate, according to the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT).

Specialty cheeses continue to be the largest portion of sales with the top five categories being meat, chips and snacks, bread and baked goods, and condiments. Gluten free products continue to show strong growth as specialty food manufacturers respond to increased demand. Over 100 new gluten free products were introduced in the last year.

At the annual summer Fancy Food Show held in Washington, DC this year capacity crowds filled the aisles to view more than 180,000 products.

Some of the latest trends reflected in attendees’ interest are Alcohol infused foods. Products like Roasted Peach Whiskey sauce from Stonewall Kitchens, Sake infused Barbeque Sauce from Argo Century Inc. and Scotch Caramel Sauce from Happy Goat Caramels are examples of the latest trend to add alcohol to create variations on existing offerings.

Another popular item is “Do-It-Yourself Kits” where food lovers can grow their own mushrooms, make mozzarella cheese, and my favorite, a warm Belgian Chocolate Soufflé kit.

Other trends that are delivering new and innovative products for every taste to retailer’s shelves are the increasing use of coconut in food and beverages. Innovative dairy products such as goat milk yogurt and the growth of Kefir, a fermented milk drink are also appearing on store shelves and being snapped up by customers seeking new tastes and healthy products.

Snack foods were not overlooked at this years show with Popped foods such as Black Truffle & White Cheddar popcorn from 479 Degrees, Bourbon infused popcorn from Metropolitan Bakery, and Mini Pops made from organic sorghum joining the ever growing ranks in the snack aisle.