Specialty food for the Holidays

The Lempert Report
December 16, 2013

Supermarkets should consider their audience when assessing holiday demand for specialty foods.

Holidays are the time for entertaining at home, and generally for such celebrations, hosts like to step up their food game. Retailers can appeal to consumers by stepping up their game and highlighting foods different from the norm. Specialty foods that express care and inventiveness in elegant ways. 

At the same time, supermarkets should consider their audience when assessing holiday demand for specialty foods.  Special Report:  Today’s Specialty Food Consumer 2013, issued by the Specialty Food Association, offers helpful insight here. 

The findings indicate that people do buy specialty foods year-round.  Specifically, 74% of U.S. consumers say they bought specialty foods in 2013, up from 46% in the post-recession year 2009. This gives supermarkets a credible baseline to assess the potential for holiday sales.

According to the report, the Top 5 specialty food categories—after chocolates, oils and cheeses—are:

•Yogurt and kefir


•Salty snacks

•Beverages, non-alcoholic

•Frozen desserts and ice cream

However, while we see the holiday’s as a time retailers can highlight specialty foods, we also see a potential risk for stores in going too far beyond the culinary skills and aspirations of their customers.  It’s a fine line between  making holiday dishes special and over complicating and potentially risking the meal.  Stores that assort appropriately, simplify purchase decisions and encourage taste adventures (through sampling, education) have the best chance to achieve the right balance.