Specialty Grocery / Soups/Sauces/Dressings/Marinades / Spreads

Defining Specialty Foods

June 10, 2014
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We’ve been on a tear regarding all things “specialty” of late, with content on “Specialty Grocery Branding” and a new category video on “Private Label Specialty Baked Goods Insight.” As part of our research, we talked to Mike Post, director of retail sales for Trailblazer Foods. He’s been in retail food and CPG for more than 30 years, working with brands like Carnation, Eskimo Pie, Klondike Ice Cream and Sorrento Cheese. Now he’s responsible for all sales functions for Trailblazer Foods’ retail customers, including Kroger, Safeway, Walmart and many more. Trailblazer Foods is a manufacturer of private label preserves and jellies, table syrups, and more--many of which fall on the “specialty” end of the spectrum.


Douglas J. Peckenpaugh: Which types of product attributes elevate a product from “traditional” to “specialty”?

Mike Post: I find that there are three key attributes that differentiate specialty products from the traditional. First, ingredients. Organic, fair trade and locally grown ingredients, to name a few, clearly elevate a product beyond the “standard.” Second, packaging can play a role in differentiating a product from those traditional goods. Using a unique packaging style can make a significant difference in buyer perception--whether it be the size and shape of a container, or the label’s callout points. Lastly, price plays a role in consumers’ minds when it comes to buying specialty products. Oftentimes, the thought process is that, “If a product costs more than the standard, it must be superior, right?”


DJP: How important is it for specialty foods to have a “clean” label, and be “natural” or organic?

MP: Consumers shopping for specialty foods expect to find clearly communicated points of differentiation on their labels as compared to the standard product. Consumers are now trained to understand that if a product has a cleaner label and fewer words, this means less “unnatural” ingredients and more natural and organic ingredients. These natural and organic attributes are important in affording consumers the indulgent experience they are looking for, along with the reassurance that the product is “healthier” than the standard.


DJP: How can retailers communicate “specialty” product attributes or background to the shopper for private label lines via the label, marketing materials and/or merchandising tactics?

MP:The labels and marketing materials of private label specialty products should call out attributes such as certified organic, gluten-free, fair trade certified and “more fruit, less sugar.” This will elevate the private label specialty product above the standard, while also communicating the good’s value as compared to the branded specialty product--beyond its lower price point. A product’s superiority can also be inferred by simply placing the specialty product above the “standards” on the shelf. Lastly, as consumers continue to take an active role in learning about the products they purchase, product sampling at the store level can go a long way when trying to effectively communicate product attributes and promote consumer adoption.

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