Going Gourmet

Every retailer is dying to know, “What are the next big market segments I can tap into so as to best serve my clients and increase my store sales?”

Well, here at WholeFoods Magazine, we believe we have found one for you: the natural gourmet market.

By “natural gourmet,” we mean grocery items that have an extra-special quality about them while still maintaining the core values of natural or organic. A gourmet product could make use of high-end packaging, decadent flavors or high-end ingredients, all of which can convey to shoppers that the product is more than a pantry staple; it’s a treat intended for indulgence at some level. We’re talking about luscious chocolate, artisan cheese, specialty desserts, decadent spreads and the like.

We feel that natural gourmet products are magnets for today’s shoppers, especially those already drawn to the natural channel. Market research firm SPINS has been tracking sales of specialty gourmet retailers through its SPINSscan Specialty Gourmet database. SPINS estimates that the specialty gourmet channel was a $6.755-billion industry, for the 52 weeks ending May 11, 2013.

Of this, $1.634 billion came from sales of specialty gourmet products; but, a whopping $1.647 billion came from natural and organic products (about $615 million from organic foods, and $1.032 billion from natural foods)!

That’s right; specialty gourmet stores are selling more natural and organic products than specialty gourmet foods.

The rest of their revenue came from brands aspiring to be natural ($94 million), conventional foods ($2.878 billion) and other products ($501 million).

These numbers aren’t just a one-shot deal. Data collected by SPINS show rapid growth of natural and organic products in gourmet specialty stores over the course of several years, with natural and organic recently overtaking specialty gourmet product sales in these stores.

Given this market growth, we believe if you open the door to gourmet in your store, you could open up a valuable new profit center. Essentially, if gourmet stores are seeing the value of natural gourmet in their stores, it may be time for natural retailers to bring these products to their clientele. And, WholeFoods has decided to help you do this, starting this month, with regular targeted coverage of the gourmet industry. Here’s how:

• Beginning in this issue, you will see that our Grocery Products section now includes natural gourmet products. Sure, there will be some crossover with the natural and organic products we typically feature in this section; but the idea is that these gourmet items are specifically marketed for their gourmet qualities.

• As relevant stories present themselves, you’ll find additional coverage of important issues related to the natural gourmet industry in our Grocery News section.

• Last, and perhaps most importantly, we will bring you merchandising and market trend information in our new column, entitled The Gourmet Guru. On this page, you’ll learn from a gourmet industry insider all about what’s hot in a given market segment and how you can take advantage of it as a retailer. Look for our first Q&A in the November 2013 issue of WholeFoods, with regular coverage starting in January.

—The Editors


Published in WholeFoods Magazine, September 2013