Specialty Food Magazine

Summer 2020

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

Issue link: https://www.e-digitaleditions.com/i/1256204

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Page 38 of 91

face masks. It has also placed mats on the floor that help customers maintain six feet of space between each other. To help control the number of people entering, the bakery implemented curbside pickup, which Emberling says has been very popular with customers. "We're taking many, many more orders over the phone, having them be prepaid, and then when guests come, we bring it right out to their car," she says. Still, business in the bakery has only been about 60 to 65 percent of normal volume—which is a significant drop, but not as severe as the 35 percent of normal volume that the Zingerman's Deli is experiencing. The company has reduced staff through either layoffs or furloughs by about a third, Emberling says. One area of Zingerman's operations that has been "going crazy busy," she says, is the Zingerman's Mail Order business. In addition, she has been pleasantly surprised to see strong increases in demand for bread and for baking supplies. The bread category, she notes, had been suffering sales pressure as consumers increasingly adopted diets that shun carbohydrates, but it has roared back to popularity as a comfort-food favorite. And with millions of consumers now spending more time cocooning at home, they are also spending more time baking. "Luckily we were packaging some flour because we have our own mill, and so we were doing that to a small degree in our own shop," says Emberling. "We've been selling hundreds of pounds of flour in the last couple of weeks." Specialty Finds its Niche As Americans hunkered down amidst self-isolation orders and sought tried-and-true comfort foods to sustain them, specialty food makers adjusted their strategies to find their new niche. "We can see people increasing their stockpile of groceries, which makes sense, and we are seeing an increase in things like canned beans, frozen vegetables—things consumers think can sustain them and have many uses," says Melanie Bartelme, global food analyst at Mintel. Consumers are looking for "foods that deliver on usability." As a result, it presents an opportunity for specialty brands that focus on sauces, dips, and seasonings that transform staples into unique and flavorful meals with minimal effort. Brooklyn, New York-based Brooklyn Delhi, which distributes its small-batch, India-inspired condiments through Whole Foods, Fairway, and alternate channels such as meal kits, reports increased demand for its products during the pandemic. Founder Chitra Agrawal says she's noticed an uptick in sales of its simmer sauces and achaars, in particular. "We heard from one grocery buyer that in the beginning people were stocking up on the staples like grains and beans, but now they are looking to flavor those items in different ways, which has driven sales of international flavors, including Indian," she says. While adventurous eating offers a form of escapism, consumers are also "craving the heritage brands they grew up with," says Bartelme, who cites Chef Boyardee as an example. Consumers look to "products that they know bring them satisfaction when they're worried. Two weeks into the outbreak, things may have felt like an adventure. Now, it's all about comfort," she explains. Comfort foods tend to be convenient while giving consumers the satisfaction that they're putting a real meal together. "Brands can offer shortcuts, but not compromise on quality and taste," Bartelme adds. Nona Lim Ramen Bowls fit the bill. "People in most parts of the country are familiar with Ramen noodles, and they want good Ramen that's easy to cook and a little gourmet," says founder Nona Lim. She has experienced such a spike in her brand's e-commerce sales that it's been difficult to keep pace. "I'd say e-commerce sales have doubled their usual volume since shelter in place orders came out in March," she says. Nona Lim products are available on the brand's website as well as through Amazon and Instacart, among other e-commerce partners. "We're actually dealing with some stock situations because demand has been so high." Specialty makers are also pivoting their strategies to appeal to shoppers who've become more frugal at a time of soaring joblessness. Mike Kurtz, founder of Mike's Hot Honey, launched a smaller jar of his signature condiment to appeal to the consumer segment that is seeking high- value products at lower price points. The brand's standard size jar is 12 ounces, while the new "mini" has a net weight of 1.88 ounces. "We thought consumers might be looking for a price point for a more limited budget," says The bread category had been suffering sales pressure as consumers increasingly adopted diets that shun carbohydrates, but it has roared back to popularity as a comfort-food favorite. 28 SPECIALTY FOOD SPECIALTYFOOD.COM BUSINESS CONTINUITY

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