Sunday, August 12, 2007

Monday Morning Java

News, facts, fun and vital information to start your week off with a jolt

Global coffee exports soaring...Global coffee exports increased by 14.5% to 73.6 million bags in the current crop year (October-June, 2006/07), according to statistics compiled by the International Coffee Organization (ICO). Total global coffee output for the nine-month 2006/2007 crop year is forecast to be at least 121.4 million bags, compared to 110.3 million bags in 2005/06, according to the ICO. You can find lots of global coffee facts and information here:
>Consumers throughout the world love their coffee--as the growth rate summarized above demonstrates. Coffee is an international beverage which is consumed from Central America to Europe and the U.S--and from Asia to Africa, and everywhere else in between. In fact, Asia and Great Britain are about the only places in the world where tea remains the preference over coffee--and coffee sales are making strong inroads in both these two Asian countries.

What coffee and tea have in common, in addition to good taste and warmth, is caffeine. Caffeine is the world's stimulant of choice. Not only is it in coffee and tea, but today you can find caffeine in carbonated beverages, juices, bottled water and even chewing gum. And lets not forget energy drinks, one of the most popular new beverage categories to emerge is decades. Caffeine is the primary--or a significant--ingredient in nearly every brand of energy drink.

Sales of beverages containing caffeine, especially coffee and tea, will continue to grow steadily for the next decade. Consumers in China and India, the countries with the number one and number two largest populations in the world, are drinking more and more coffee. The shear numbers of people in these two countries alone assures continued growth. In addition, consumers throughout the rest of the world show no signs of decreasing their coffee and tea consumption any time soon. In fact it is the opposite: They are drinking more.
Knowledge is power...No matter if you are a CEO or senior executive with a large multinational corporation, a president or general Manager of a medium-sized company, or an owner/manager of a small company--or even an aspiring executive--you can never know all there is to know about leadership, or ever be too good of a leader. In the August 8-21 issue of Knowledge @ Wharton, the online business publication of the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business, there's an excellent research article about CEO leadership. The article provides important ideas and practical applications for those currently running a natural or specialty foods business of any size and in any sector of these industries.

Specialty salts: an emerging niche category...Up until a couple years ago most American supermarkets--even fairly upscale retailers--merchandised only one or two--or maybe three, specialty salts. This remains the norm today but is beginning to change. In addition to the ubiquitous Morton's brand of table salt (in iodized and non-iodized) and another national brand table salt and usually a private label brand, they most likely would carry a kosher salt and usually one variety of sea salt, that's about it in terms of a specialty salts offering--2 skus. Of course there are exceptions--but that still is the norm for most conventional--and even many fairly upscale-supermarket retailers. If a consumer wanted a specialty salt beyond this limited choice, they either had to shop at a very upscale supermarket or at a specialty or gourmet food store, or at a retailer like Williams-Sonoma or Cost Plus World Market for example, which have gourmet food sections in their stores.

However today this is beginning to change dramatically. More and more upscale supermarket retailers are making room on their shelves for a variety of specialty salts--upscale salts, gourmet salts, natural salts and entirely new varieties--some from places throughout the world and others created by small companies domestically in the U.S. This behavior is also having a "trickle down" effect on conventional supermarket operators as consumers are requesting more variety in the salt section at their local supermarket. As such these conventional retailers are adding skus of specialty and natural salts to the category in their stores. They are adding them slowly, but doing so.
This trend is primarily being driven by professional chefs, especially those on television programs seen on the Food Network, PBS and other media networks. These chefs have a huge following and viewers want to use what these chefs are using when they cook the recipes offered in these food programs. These chefs discuss and demonstrate the use of specialty salts as a culinary ingredient and integral part of a food dish, showing how tastes can be enhanced, modified, ect. by using a particular type or variety of salt. It's an educational and discovery process for viewers.
The trend is also being driven by globalization. The smaller the world gets, the more people travel, the more they learn that peoples in other parts of the world don't just use one basic salt to season their foods. Rather, people learn that in other parts of the world people use a variety of different salts, just like here in the U.S people have learned that there are more varieties of mustard than just yellow.

Additionally this trend is being driven by health concerns as well as culinary ones. It is well known that salt isn't good for such things as a persons blood pressure, and their is evidence that regular table salt, the predominant type used by U.S consumers, is the worse of the worse variety of salt. As such, consumers in greater numbers are buying sea salts and other salts labeled as "more natural."

Lastly, this trend is being driven by culinary entrepreneurs who closely follow food trends and the professional chefs I mentioned above. Many of these entrepreneurs work in the restaurant industry as chefs themselves, or in similar positions. They know that salt is a culinary item just like herbs or condiments They have used this knowledge to start small companies which are marketing and selling imported salts from throughout the world. many of them also are creating and blending their own signature varieties of salts.

Here at Natural~Specialty Foods Memo we see the specialty and natural salts category as having huge potential to grow. Currently we are just at the tip of the iceberg in terms of consumer knowledge about and retailer exceptance of specialty salts and the category potential. We see this as a category to watch for specialty and natural foods manufacturing companies, distributors, brokerage firms and retailers. It offers sales benefits for all sectors across the board.

This article from the August 12, 2007 Seattle Times Magazine gives a brief overview about the culinary aspects of specialty salts in addition to listing just a sampling of the many varieties of specialty salts available .

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