With the specialty food industry surpassing the anticipated 100-billion-dollar mark for 2016 — it reached $120.5 billion in 2015 — there continues to be a spot for everyone in the rapidly growing category.
According to the 2016 State of the Specialty Food Industry report produced by the Specialty Food Association and Mintel, food sales at mainstream retailers and specialty food stores are growing at about the same rate.
Take the knowledge you find in the rest of this report and apply it to zoo, aquarium and museum gift shops, and you’ve reached a virtually untapped market by comparison. With the massive food following we’ve been seeing, it’s a good idea to strategically place edible items throughout your shop. But you can’t just select any old product; putting a lot of thought and effort into what’s offered and how it fits with your theme, establishment and message can increase sales and make your shop a go-to when customers return throughout the year. “Light
snacks do well for us,” said Christa Dyer, director of guest services and retail operations, The DoSeum, San Antonio’s museum for kids. “My team uses them as an add-on to every sale. ‘Would you like any snacks or drinks for the road home today?’”
The DoSeum is a health-conscious institution, so they carry Cliff Bars, applesauce packs, Kind Bars, Veggie Straws and other nutritious snacks. Especially at a museum whose main clientele is children, snacks and edible items are a huge seller.
On the other end of the snack spectrum with just as much in sales, is candy. “Jelly Belly did fairly well for us,” said Bill Lucey of Rainforest Adventures Discovery
Zoo in Sevierville, Tennessee. “(Jelly Belly) and Pennsylvania Dutch Candies did a great job of carrying themed zoo stuff. They appear at the trade shows from time to time and do a fantastic job of having oddball animal objects versus your standard. Anytime you can catch the themed product, it seems to enhance the sale.”
What really changed for Lucey and his shop, was the Pucker Powder machine by Creative Concept. It works like this: you purchase a clear tube and work your way around the machine, filling the tube with various flavored powders. In addition to a fun snack for the child, it’s interactive and gets them involved in their souvenir. “I was reluctant to put that machine in because I thought it would cause a disaster,” said Lucey. “(Pucker
Powder) offered a high gross margin, but my fear was we would trade (in) packaged candy for a disaster.” He quickly found out he couldn’t have been more wrong. With substantially improved gross margins, his shop slowly weaned itself off other food products and stuck with the miraculous machine.
While enjoying a day out, people get hungry. They’re walking through the zoo, aquarium or museum and want a snack. Whether it’s candy, veggie sticks or themed snacks, there’s a huge market for this in your shop. Try it out as an impulse purchase for starters. Place an item or two in or near your checkout line and see how it sells. From there, expand to include it in various displays, themes or other areas around the store. With such a huge food following, the market for gourmet and edibles continues to grow, and investing in a piece of the snack pie would prove to be a smart move.