Specialty Grocery Stores: A Unique Opportunity For Small Brands

Specialty grocery stores have grown immensely in the past ten years. Stemming from natural foods stores and retailers specializing in specific international cuisines, specialty retailers traditionally cater to more niche demographics. Compared to large national chains, these retailers carry far fewer SKUs but offer more unique options that you wouldn’t typically see at your local mega-mart. However, as trendy dietary preferences have hit the mainstream and as more shoppers are interested in specialty ingredients/products, these grocery stores have had a resurgence. Focusing on a boutique-style shopping experience, and stocking unique and niche products – specialty grocery stores offer an interesting jumping-off point for smaller brands.


It’s hard to think of the days where stores like Whole Foods and Sprouts weren’t as widespread as they are today. The popularity of these stores stems from the variety of products they carry that you typically can’t get from legacy national chains. They offer a more relaxed environment to shop, with fewer SKUs to choose from but more types of products to try.  Shoppers that are interested in natural foods or ingredients that cater to specific diets often gravitate towards these larger specialty grocery stores.

The growing popularity of these larger chains has opened the door for many smaller shops.  Erewhon, a Los Angeles-based specialty grocery store chain, has quickly risen to be an iconic LA staple. Focusing on local and artisanal products, Erewhon offers a unique shopping experience where customers can find both traditional natural food products as well as more niche specialty items. On the other hand, stores like Pop Up Grocer offer a similar variety of products but in temporary spaces. Across the country, Pop Up Grocer travels to major cities where they set-up a storefront for a limited amount of time. Often stocking experimental and trendy products, this type of business model allows smaller food & beverage brands to introduce their products to larger audiences. The limited availability and boutique-style shopping experience is the perfect chance for brands to gauge the interest in innovative products.

Curated Online Retailers

The shift to online grocery shopping has been expedited due to the events of the past year. With many large national chains strengthening their online presence, many smaller shops have also grown in popularity. Online retailers such as Thrive Market, Hungryroot, and Yummy Bazaar, specialize in natural and unique products that most large chains don’t traditionally carry. The convenience and ease of online shopping is a great opportunity for smaller food & beverage brands to reach a wider audience. Many of these online retailers offer membership services that can help build brand loyalty.

Although specialty grocery stores are not always accessible to all consumers, they offer a very unique opportunity for brands. Their curated selection targets a variety of niche markets that promote the organic discovery of new and exciting products. As people have gained more interest in cooking at home (see our blog Harnessing the Power of Home Cooking to learn more) these specialty grocery stores are the perfect place for shoppers to get inspired and try new products.

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