Everybody needs to eat. And, in times of high stress people like to pamper themselves with that extra special treat, which often takes the form of something edible.
While other industries struggle to come up with a winning hand from the cards dealt by the floundering economy, the food industry continues to draw aces, particularly the specialty food segment. It seems that people are still willing to splurge on a low-cost indulgence, such as a package of upscale cookies, rather than take on the debt of a new car in a challenging financial climate.
"Specialty foods do pretty well in bad economic times and they're doing nicely now because they are affordable luxuries," Ron Tanner, spokesman for the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade, told SN. "People can still spend $4 for a box of couscous or $3 on a mustard, even if they don't have all the disposable income that they used to have."
In this issue you will find a feature devoted to the topic of specialty foods, beginning on Page 25, which touches upon the issues of the display and pricing of such high-end items.
Meanwhile, as you read this issue, the NASFT, which represents all segments of the specialty food industry, is fully entrenched in its 27th annual Fancy Food winter trade show at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. The show's growing number of attendees and exhibitors is indicative of the increasing popularity of the specialty foods genre.
And, why shouldn't consumers be drawn to a category that embraces all cultures and religious beliefs?
In today's highly patriotic times the specialty food segment is a true representation of our nation's melting pot. Depending on how it is defined by supermarket retailers, the category can include such diverse and proliferating food categories as kosher, Asian and gourmet, to name a few.
According to Tanner, three new countries -- Vietnam, India and Tunisia -- have joined the Fancy Food show as exhibitors this year, offering another example of the genre's global draw.
Not only is the specialty foods field limitless in its flavorful array of products from different geographical regions, but it's also an extremely attractive segment to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to test the waters of a flourishing food-related field.
To that end, a new seminar has been added to the NASFT lineup and will be repeated as part of the educational program for the spring/Midwest and summer Fancy Food shows, held in Chicago and New York, respectively. "Getting Started in the Specialty Food Business: Taking Your Products to the Retail Level" covers such issues as business structures, insurance and employer-employee relations, and was added in an attempt to help minority business owners break into the specialty foods arena.
"There are still a lot of ethnic foods that haven't gotten out of their communities," Tanner said. "It doesn't take a lot of capital to start a specialty food business; you can start it with $2,000 to $3,000. Many of our members started on their Visa cards and have turned their companies into billion-dollar businesses."