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Grocery Industry National

Gluten-Free A Hot Trend For Specialty Food Gifts, But Chocolate Still Reigns

NCA Chocolate Consumers report

America’s appetite for specialty foods hit a record high last year, with consumers spending $86 billion on everything from artisanal chocolates and cheese to oils and charcuterie. To help food enthusiasts navigate the wealth of food-gift choices available this holiday season, the Specialty Food Association has released the results of a survey that reveal the top product categories, flavors and ingredients.

Responses from 250 specialty food producers and retailers showed that the three hottest holiday product categories are perennial favorites: chocolate (42 percent), baked goods (36 percent) and alcoholic beverages (25 percent).

No. 4 on the list is a relative newcomer: gluten-free foods, which were named the “hottest” specialty food category by 20 percent of respondents.

“Specialty food producers bring craft and care to the foods they create every day and are taking it up a notch for the holidays,” said Denise Purcell, editor of Specialty Food Media. “Whether a traditional favorite like chocolate or a new twist on a classic like gluten-free peppermint cookies, you can tell by the taste, appearance and packaging that you’re giving the gift of a special food experience.”

According to the survey, specialty food professionals predict that consumers will gravitate to a mix of traditional and non-traditional flavors and ingredients this season. The top traditional flavors include:

• Chocolate (42 percent)

• Pumpkin (29 percent)

• Ginger (23 percent)

• Peppermint (20 percent)

The top non-traditional flavors and ingredients include:

• Sea Salt (23 percent)

• Bacon (20 percent)

• Bourbon/Whiskey (12 percent)

• Truffles (11 percent)

Additionally, the Specialty Food Association asked industry insiders what they plan to give—and most want to receive—this holiday season.

To friends, industry insiders said they most likely would give cheese (72 percent), alcohol (69 percent), chocolate (63 percent) and jams/jellies/preserves/honey (60 percent).

For family members, they are most likely to give baked goods (72 percent) and olive oil (67 percent).

For other gift recipients, certain trends emerged:

• Teachers will receive a lot of chocolate—40 percent of chocolate-givers plan to give it to a teacher.

• Many specialty food professionals will give jams, jellies, preserves and honey this year: 42 percent say they’ll give these items to a party host, 44 percent to customers/clients and 40 percent to acquaintances.

• Condiments are a hot item for customers/clients. Of those planning to give condiments, 45 percent are giving it to a customer/client.

What do specialty food professionals want for the holidays? Alcoholic beverages (30 percent), chocolate (26 percent) and baked goods (23 percent) are popular choices, and so are cheese, olive oil, charcuterie and coffee.


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Featured Photo PLMA Annual Private Label Trade Show
Donald E. Stephens Convention Center
Chicago, Illinois
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