Consumers fueling billion-dollar gourmet sector

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Organic food

American adults who consider themselves "gourmet consumers" are
fueling a $41.2 billion industry, according to a new report.

The US Market for Gourmet Foods and Beverages from market research publisher Packaged Facts suggests that nearly 20 percent of Americans can now be considered 'gourmet consumers,' underlining a significant growth trend that food companies should be paying attention to.

The market research group projects that the market for gourmet foods and beverages will top $62 billion by 2009.

Higher pricing is usually seen as a hurdle for the food industry, but it now appears that consumers with higher disposable incomes are happy to buy gourmet, content to pay a little bit more for the knowledge that their foods are made from quality ingredients.

Based on data from Simmons Market Research Bureau, the report estimates that 18.3 percent of adults try to eat gourmet food whenever they can. And that's getting easier to do. Several factors are making gourmet products more available, appealing and affordable, including greater involvement in gourmet on the part of mainstream food marketers, expanding retail distribution of gourmet products and a growing synergy between the natural and gourmet foods industries.

"More gourmet products are using natural and organic ingredients (and appealing to consumers' social consciences by offering products that are good for the environment and for the workers who produce them), and more natural foods retailers are carrying upscale, gourmet food and beverage items that meet their quality standards,"​ said Don Montuori, publisher of Packaged Facts.

Indeed, according to the Organic Trade Association's 2004 Manufacturers' Survey, the organic foods industry reached $10.8 billion in 2003 and has grown at an average rate of 19.5 percent per year since 1997. Market researcher Euromonitor predicts that sales of packaged organic foods alone will be worth $8.6 billion at retail by 2009 - up from 5.1 billion in 2003.

Convenience, too, continues to be a major force influencing everyday purchases of food and beverages, and gourmet/premium products are no exception to this rule. It is no coincidence that some of the fastest-growing products in this market - including bottled water, RTD beverages, bagged salads, and refrigerated "supermarket sushi" - benefit from the convenience angle in terms of portability, being fully prepared, ease of preparation, and no-mess consumption.

The U.S. Market for Gourmet Food and Beverages covers eight product areas: Beverages, Baked Goods, Pasta and Grains, Fresh Produce, Ready-to-Eat Meals, Condiments and Sauces, Cheese, Candy, and Ice Cream and Frozen Desserts. The report charts historical sales and projections; analyzes marketing and new product trends; and offers an in-depth profile of the gourmet consumer.

The two-volume report can be purchased directly from Packaged Facts​.

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