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In Good Taste: Consumers Are Leveling Up Pantry Staples

Shelf-stable foods have been continuing to see growth at independent housewares retail as consumers are looking for offerings with unique flavor profiles as well as those with a local bent.

Olive oil and vinegar refill programs that come complete with exotic flavors as well as distinctive sauce or dip combinations from a local maker have been top-of-mind with consumers, a trend that will seemingly continue into the next year.

GOURMET INSIDER® editor, Emily Cappiello, recently spoke to Phil Kafarakis, president of the Specialty Food Association, about what shelf-stable food categories are poised to grow and how the rise of global flavors will shift consumer demand.

GI: Where do you see the shelf-stable food category going in 2020 as far as growth is concerned?

PK: It seems that consumer interest is in healthier eating combined with an ever-expanding curiosity about global flavors and traditional cooking techniques. And technological advancements in cooking are making for more varied consumer spending on shelf-stable ingredients. It’s fascinating to see smaller companies knocking big brands off the shelves as consumers seek out innovation and clean ingredients.

GI: What subsection of this category do you see standing out going into the next year and why?

PK: We combine sauces, marinades and condiments together in our research — it’s a category that had sales of more than $1 billion in 2018. Specialty foods make up approximately 20% of total category sales in this segment. We’re predicting about 4% growth each year of the next five for this category.

The continuing popularity of the Mediterranean diet keeps olive oil sales fairly steady, but growth has slowed in recent years and the trend is expected to continue. We expect less than 1% growth this year, increasing slightly during the next four years.

GI: What are some of the flavor trends that we can expect to see in the shelf-stable category through the next year, especially in the sauces and rubs department?

PK: We see ethnic flavors especially building appeal with younger consumers. For instance, we predict that the combined expanding interest in fermentation and Korean cuisine will converge to bring the fermented condiment gochujang to the forefront. One of the backbones of Korean cooking is a red chili paste made with fermented soybeans, seasonings, and glutinous rice and is often used in marinades, dipping sauces, soups, and stews. West African flavors are also getting hot these days, as well as the cuisines they influence — think Caribbean and South American.

GI: What can we expect from shelf-stable foods in the keto/paleo/gluten-free realm as far as flavors and quality?

PK: We’re seeing a lot more alternative proteins — think of noodles made from seafood or with extra nutrients and dietary fiber packed in. And prebiotics are gaining popularity — these are types of dietary fiber that feed the friendly bacteria in the gut and are found in foods like bananas, asparagus, seaweed, and barley among others. There are more products highlighting these ingredients that are gaining traction. We’ve been watching consumers’ dietary trends impact food production for years, that will certainly continue.

GI: What do you feel consumers are looking for when it comes to purchasing and using shelf-stable foods?

PK: We used to consider shelf-stable foods as basic pantry items, but they’re definitely transforming into stars in their own rights. Food is more exciting than ever for consumers looking to experiment and test both traditional and cutting-edge flavor combinations. The average pantry these days is just not average.

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