Editor's Letter

Sweet Thoughts on the Future

Burlap sacks of gourmet coffee grounds are piled in the entryway of one of my favorite specialty food stores. Apothecary jars are brimming with tea, and the chocolate bars are wrapped in modern graphics. For me, there's a level of packaging (and flavor) attraction that simply isn't topped outside of the specialty food industry.

Others must agree. It's been a record year for gourmet products. In 2014, specialty food sales topped $100 billion for the first time, with retail sales growing 19 percent from 2012 to 2014—compare that to a moderate 2 percent increase for all food. This is all according to a new report from the Specialty Food Association produced in conjunction with Mintel. We couldn't be happier to see such stellar growth since the recession.

For specialty food retailers, the average transaction size has grown; so too has the amount of local, organic and all-natural products carried since 2013. The share of dollars that specialty food is taking from the total food market is also continuing to rise—it claimed a 15 percent share in 2014. Customers are looking to you, the specialty retailer, for breakfast, lunch, dinner and beyond.

New tastes and ingredients are ever present, as are the opportunities to diversify your store shelves with sweet treats. There are now 15 segments that exceed $1 billion in sales, two of which are snacks and candy.

With sugar and cocoa costs soaring, we're looking ahead to gain insight into the future of those confectionery segments. Expect this year's Sweets & Snacks Expo to do the same with a full education lineup featuring tips on leveraging candy and snack's connectivity with buyers, driving consumer demand for chocolate, and researching the new age candy and snack distributer. Our sweet tooth is insatiable, so we'll be paying close attention to the confectionery future and its perpetually changing face. In the meantime, take advantage of the sweet offerings we've compiled in this issue for you and your customers (page 10). Looking for a more savory snack option? In Life of The Party (16), we take a look into the myriad of dips and dip mixes on the market. From spices (20) and condiments (7) to sauces (15), we've got the industry covered.

Happy reading,
Megan O'Neill
Associate Editor