Retailers are focusing on niches as the develop new stores, according to the Food Marketing Institute's report "Facts About Store Development 2006."

Overall, 14.5 percent of companies surveyed opened at least one niche-focused store in 2005 -- 44 percent of those were ethnic formats, mostly Hispanic. Natural and organic stores and gourmet outlets also were among the new openings.

Of the other new starts, nine in 10 companies feature prepared takeout foods, delis, fresh seafood and sections devoted to ethnic offerings, according to the survey. At least half are including a separate organic or natural food aisle or section.

FMI surveyed food retailers operating a total of 6,860 stores. Participating companies included retailers operating one to 10 stores (40 percent), 11 to 100 stores (38 percent) and more than 100 stores (22 percent).

Source: Food Marketing Institute