The market potential for niche food products remains large, and consumers buy niche products because they desire the freshness, flavor and healthful qualities which they believe these products deliver.

“More customers come in every day and ask for local products,” says Carl Pursh, meat and seafood director for Pennsylvania-based McGinnis Sisters Special Food Stores, which carries many value-added pork products.

To get a clearer picture of the potential for niche pork, the National Pork Board funded a study to determine the factors that influence a consumer’s decision to purchase a niche food product. “This is based on the idea that it would be more efficient to grow the niche pork category among these consumers,” says Jarrod Sutton, director of retail marketing for the NPB, who shared the following results:

• 63 percent of consumers typically buy niche food products at a conventional grocery store, 53 percent purchase them at a farmers market or food coop, 37 percent purchase them directly from local farmers and another 33 percent buy them at specialty food stores.
• When asked how frequently they buy each type of niche food product, consumers indicate that they buy niche fruits and vegetables on average 37 times a year.  Niche fresh or frozen pork is purchased about 16 times a year.
• 53 percent of niche pork consumers say they buy the product at a conventional grocery store, 33 percent purchase niche pork at specialty food stores, 23 percent purchase niche pork products at a farmers market or food coop, and 20 percent buy it directly from a local farmer.
• Healthfulness was given as the most important reason for purchasing niche pork by 25 percent of respondents. Other most important reasons included freshness, quality and flavor. When all reasons for purchasing niche pork products were combined, more than half of respondents cited quality, flavor, freshness and healthfulness as most important.
• Lack of availability in the places where consumers shop, inability to find the product locally, and price are given by one third or more of niche food purchasers as the top reason for not purchasing niche pork products more often. If these purchase barriers are removed, 77 percent of niche food purchasers are likely to purchase niche pork more often. 

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Source: NPB