Photo: Julie Zeveloff/Business Insider
With unemployment still hovering around 9 per cent, overall consumer spending flat, and food prices rising, you’d think Americans would be hunkering down for a long austere winter. But even if they’re cutting back on restaurant meals and too-big-to-fit flat screen TVs, they’re not giving up fancy food from the grocery store, especially during the holidays.
Consumers are expected to spend an average of $96.75 on candy and snacks this holiday season, a $10 increase from 2010. And sales of specialty foods and beverages rose 7.7 per cent to $70 billion in 2010, according to the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade.
Whether it’s that gallon of eggnog or a log of lavender-infused goat cheese, consumers are rationalizing these purchases as “harmless little luxuries” that won’t make a severe dent in their bank accounts. Nearly 70 per cent of consumers who splurge on specialty items do so “to treat themselves,” according to a recent report by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade.
Nobody is arguing that thinly-sliced Italian prosciutto di Parma isn't delicious, but with average prices ranging between $14.99/lb -$19.99/lb, you might think Americans would be skipping this dry cured specialty.
But in 2010, the U.S. surpassed France to become Italy's leading importer of prosciutto and 2011 sales continue to impress. Exports in June 2011 were up 39.5 per cent from the same period last year according to Perishables Group.
Americans, (thankfully) have grown tired of sipping cheap swill like Pabst Blue Ribbon or Hamm's, and drinkers are increasingly looking for better tasting microbrews. Since over 80 per cent of the market is dominated by three companies -- Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Coors -- that's good news for small independent breweries.
National craft beer sales were up 12 per cent last year and 2011 is expected to be a record breaking year. The number of breweries producing craft beer is swelling too -- currently there are 1,759 breweries in the U.S., the most since 1900.
Due to the mysterious Colony Collapse Disorder in 2006 and disappearing bees, the price of honey in the U.S. has been climbing rapidly, spiking 31 per cent between 2007 and 2009, and up 15 to 20 per cent in 2010, but that's not stopping people from buying it, or spending big bucks for pricier organic, raw and infused honey.
Many smaller honey producers across the country quickly sell out of their seasonal stock.
One of the most expensive honeys available is the Life Mel honey from Israel that's made by bees on a special diet of herbs like Siberian Ginseng, Echinacea and Uncaria Tomentosa. A mini 120 gram jar sells for around $80.