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Perspectives and evolution of gourmet foods and EVOO in the US

Perspectives and evolution of gourmet foods and EVOO in the US

2019/28/01 - The Specialty Food Association (SFA) organizes each year the Winter and Summer Fancy Food Shows, two events of great importance and dimension in the United States dedicated to the exhibition of gourmet and delicatessen products, including extra virgin olive oil. The Director of Content of this association, Denise Purcell, analyzes in an interview published in Mercacei Magazine 98 the evolution and perspectives of this market in the North American country, as well as the advantages of participating in both exhibitions.

What has been the evolution of the presence of olive oil companies at the fair in recent years?

The Specialty Food Association State of the Industry states that specialty oils and vinegars were a $1.12 billion category in 2017, up 11.2% since 2015. Compare that to all oils and vinegars, which had $4.5 billion in sales but only grew 5.6% in same timeframe.

Unit sales of specialty oils and vinegar were up 14.2 percent from 2015-2017 so growth isn't just sales price increase related.

In the Specialty Food Association Product Marketplace, over 1,000 olive oil, and olive oil-related products are listed. This list is not comprehensive; there are likely far more than 1,000.

What role does this product play in the US consumer's shopping cart?

Overall, 65 percent of consumers purchase specialty foods, leading the industry to $140.3 billion in retail and foodservice sales in 2017: an 11% increase over 2015. At retail, specialty foods increased nine times as much as all food. Consumers' expectations and food-choice awareness have evolved over time and that is stimulating sales growth. Specialty foods' characteristics -quality ingredients and production, interesting flavors- have become requirements rather than luxuries with consumers, younger ones particularly.

The specialty oils and vinegars category is forecast to grow another 36.3% by 2022.

Do you think that the presence of olive oil and other products related will increase in the next editions of the Winter and Summer Fancy Food Shows?

Store brands are becoming more popular and accepted -and some of that growth is driven by apple cider vinegar- but consumer interest is strong in olive oil as part of a healthy diet. Regional Middle Eastern cuisine has been trending and that helps olive oil sales.

Based on the SFA Trendspotter Panel 2019 trends preview for 2019, we are seeing plant-based burgeoning into a movement as it establishes itself in consumer eating habits.

What would you say are the main advantages of exhibiting at both fairs?

Qualified buyers across multiple supply-chain channels from all segments of the of the food industry are the primary attendees of the shows: major U.S. grocery chains, independent retailers, and foodservice. Hundreds of producers and importers from the international community exhibit, along with American producers. While our shows highlight business, they also serve as an education platform with industry thought leaders, and offer excellent networking through various events like our Leadership Awards and Front Burner Competition.

What are the upcoming initiatives that the SFA has planned for its members and for the industry in the coming year?

At our shows, we've launched "Speak Ups" where members from across the industry -producers, buyers, distributors- to talk with us, and each other, about the challenges and opportunities they see on the horizon for their businesses. These events and the creation of Working Groups made up of industry insiders will help us plan our association policies and prioritize our programs.

Our Specialty Food Business Summit helps our members, and non-members, take their business to the next level. Some of the sessions at this year's event, April 7-9, in Chicago, include Create a Strategic Plan for Growth, Positioning Your Brand for Maximum Impact on Shelf and with Consumers, Creating a Company Culture that Drives Growth and Accountability, and How to Prepare Your Business for Investment or Sale.

We've expanded our education platform with the launch of a special certification program for food buyers in 2019. We developed it with the Cornell Institute for Food Studies and E-Cornell to prepare buyers for all the aspects of the food purchasing business. In addition to industry buyers, many of our maker, distributor, and broker members will also be taking the course to hone their skills.

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