Guide to understanding the specialty food retail market

natural foods store image
Guide to Specialty Food Retail


My friends in the Ohio University Business Cluster are researching the feasibility of opening a specialty food store in the location of their choice. The purpose of this guide is to point business researchers to some key resources when researching the specialty foods retail industry and the local market. This guide lists the most highly recommended resources when researching the industry and analyzing the market. I have listed the databases and resources below, with recommendations on how to find the best information in the quickest fashion.

Chad’s research advice

A well-researched feasibility analysis will incorporate information from a majority of the tools below. Some of the databases will be easier to use than others, and researchers are bound to pick a favorite tool to use more than the rest. However, I cannot stress enough how important it is to use SimplyMap, Bizminer, and Mediamark when attempting to understand the consumer market and industry in a specific market. These three resources can be a bit difficult to use, so I have made a video for using each database specifically for this project, which you will find linked where the databases are mentioned below. Please note that SimplyMap has a maximum of 10 simultaneous users, so you may need to get up earlier, stay up later, and not procrastinate.

1. Find information about the larger industry and market

When you first get started, you’ll want to gather an understanding about the broader industry and market. The resources in this section provide a broad overview of the natural and health foods retail industry and market.


  • IbisWorld has a report for “Specialty Food Stores in the U.S.”

First Research

  • First Research has industry analyses of “Specialty Food Stores” and “Fresh Prepared Foods.”
  • You can also do the same search and find the same content in Hoover’s Online

Business Source Complete


  • Statista is a great place to look for a variety of natural food, healthy food, ethnic foods,  and organic foods statistics.
  • There is a great Statista Dossier on Local Foods.

2. Gather a deeper understanding about the consumer

After you get a good idea about the larger industry, you’ll want to research the consumers in your market. Market research reports, data, and statistics found in the resources below are an excellent place to start.

Passport GMID

  • Passport GMID has market research reports on the following topics of relevance to this market:
    • Organic Packaged Food in the U.S.
    • Health and Wellness in the U.S.
    • Organic Beverages in the U.S.
    • Fresh food in the U.S.

Mintel Oxygen

  • When using Mintel Oxygen for this project, find numerous market research reports that contain a wealth of information.
  • Also look in the Lifestyles category for relevant reports about marketing to specific group.
  • Particular reports of interest include:
    • Natural and Organic Food and Beverage, the Consumer
    • Natural and Organic Food and Beverage, the Market
    • Organic Food & Beverage Shoppers
    • Attitudes Toward Healthy Food
    • Nutritional Food and Drink
    • Soy Food and Beverages
    • Ethnic Foods

MRI Mediamark Reporter

  • Mediamark Reporter provides excellent demographic statistics on consumer products, grocery stores, and the specialty food store market.
  • This video demonstrates how to find demographics of consumers who purchase organic and natural foods.


3. Analyze your local market

After you research the consumer market for the industry, you will want to adapt that data down to the local level. The resources below can help you find information about your local market to combine with national consumer market trends.

Census QuickFacts

  • Census QuickFacts provides easy access to some of the most-used economic and social statistics.
  • The QuickFacts are an easier way to get to census information than American Factfinder.
  • You will want to use census data to compare how your local market demographics align with the more general national demographics of a consumer market (like what you find in MediaMark, Mintel, and Passport,above).



  • SimplyMap can help you understand how many people in your market area buy organic food
  • See this guide for help citing SimplyMap.
  • The video below  demonstrates how to find organic and natural food purchasing by location, down to the county, city, or zip code.


4. Get to know your competitors

Mergent Intellect

  • Use Mergent Intellect companies and competitors by user-defined search criteria, such as size, location, industry, sales, and more.
  • Also use to find nearby companies

The video below demonstrates how to use Mergent Intellect to identify potential locations or potential competitors in your local market.


Hoover’s Online

  • You can also use Hoover’s Online to fine a list of companies and potential competitors in the local market.
  • Because Hoover’s indexes companies in a slightly different way than LexisNexis, it’s a good idea to run the same search in both databases.

5. Cite your sources

When you get ready to cite your sources, take a look at the Citing in APA article. Some business databases can be more difficult to cite than traditional resources such as books and journals. In most cases, just try to provide as much information and be as consistent as possible.


Image found via myStuart, Creative Commons at Flickr


Related Topics: Business Cluster, Class Guides, Industry Guides