Every summer, foodies of the world descend upon New York City to try the latest specialty foods like vegan snacks and “enhanced” water.
From rice chips to coconut caramels, some 180,000 gourmet products filled this summer’s Fancy Food Show in New York. Specialty food companies are competing for wholesale buyers, including restaurants and retailers.
The market for specialty foods is sizzling, currently worth $127 billion and growing rapidly.
The Specialty Foods Association, which hosts the annual event, says millennials are these producers’ biggest consumers. While that demographic is interested mostly in the convenience of prepackaged specialty foods, people of all ages are craving food that’s seen as healthy and better for the environment.
Even non-vegans are buying more plant-based products like almond milk. “We have consumers looking to plant-based products for health reasons and also sustainability reasons — looking to have a lower impact on the planet,” April Siler of Califia Farms told CBS News.
Indeed, almost 40 percent of specialty food industry manufacturers produced sustainable products in 2016, compared to 22 percent the year before.
The fastest-growing categories of specialty foods include wellness bars, yogurt and waters “enhanced” with additional elements like extra hydrogen or oxygen, touted as being able to improve mental clarity and reduce inflammation.
And boutique brands appear to be gaining on larger, more established players. “Big brands are struggling right now,” Specialty Foods Association President Philip Kafarakis told CBS News.
That’s because smaller producers often can respond more quickly to consumer demands. They’re also finding more ways to reach customers from local farmers’ markets to the internet– in some cases, shoppers can even buy directly from manufacturers themselves.
One big unknown on the horizon? How Amazon’s proposed $13.7 billion acquisition of grocery chain Whole Foodsthe specialty…