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 recently 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).
Number 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, pumpkin, ginger and peppermint. The top non-traditional flavors and ingredients include sea salt, bacon, bourbon and truffles.
What do specialty food professionals themselves want for the holidays? Alcoholic beverages (30 percent), chocolate (26 percent) and baked goods (23 percent) are popular choices, as are gifts of cheese, olive oil, charcuterie and coffee.