No question, artisan foods are increasing in popularity. As consumer concern for healthy eating escalates, so has the interest in handmade, authentically made products. Everything from baked goods and specialty snacks to beverages, are joining the family of artisan brands. But why is this trend booming now when artisan products, at least on a small scale, have been around for years? Artisan represents individuality, uniqueness, and something that feels luxurious, yet it’s something that the average shopper can afford. And, consumers are eating it up.

Why Are Consumers Consumed with Artisan?

Artisan brands have Millennials to thank for a resurgence in these specialty, handcrafted products. Right now, Millennials have enormous buying power, which means they can make or break the trend—and in this instance, they’re fueling it. In 2018 specialty food sales hit an all-time high of over 140 billion dollars in sales, growing 9.8% in the last two years, according to the Specialty Food Association. Over 80% of Millennials are purchasing artisan food, the biggest percentage of any generation. Millennials are feeding this trend because they enjoy individuality and thrive off one-of-a-kind items that no one else has. They carefully choose which brands to invest in and favor ones that are authentic, transparent, and charitable to communities around the world. Millennials want an intimate connection with brands; something more than just picking products up off a shelf.

Artisan brands have engaging and powerful stories to tell, especially compared to large scale food brands. This provides consumers the opportunity to build a deeper connection with both the product and the company than ever before. Millennials appreciate the time and care taken to develop high quality artisanal products and are increasingly willing to invest more financially for an authentic and interesting experience. Gen Z is right behind Millennials in this trend. This generation is also fueling artisanal sales, and its consumer base will only increase as time goes on.

Big Brands Join the Bandwagon

Small brands have the story that consumers want, but big brands have the easy access and loyalty of consumers. Big brands and retailers such as McDonalds, Amazon, Target, and Sephora have joined the artisan trend to help drive their own sales. Manufacturers are increasingly incorporating artisanal and craft ingredients into products in response to consumer demand for a homemade feel, but on a larger scale. Last year alone, specialty sales grew 10.3% compared to 3.1% growth of all food at retail. After all, big brands that neglect fitting into this rising trend risk losing sales from both Millennials and Gen Z.

Baking and Breads

Carbs, especially baked goods and breads, are another sweet spot for artisan trends. Although there has been a considerable shift towards healthier lifestyles in the past decade that has caused bread and carbs to get a bad rap, artisan brands are bringing them back into the mainstream. Artisan brands are using simpler, more natural, ingredients in their products—and narrowing ingredients lists, as well. To complement health food trends and to appeal to health-conscious consumers, artisan brands are also incorporating seeds and whole grains into recipes. Breads and baked goods are one of the top five categories for retail sales along with cheese, snacks, and coffee according to the Specialty Food Association.

Millennials and Gen Z are helping drive sales of artisan breads and baked goods. A recent report found nearly three-quarters of consumers purchased bread “within the past few days of being surveyed, while 60% had bought sweet goods in the past week.” What are the major purchasing factors driving these groups? A emphasize on freshness (especially when its guaranteed), natural whole grain recipes, and smaller portion sizes. Artisan bakeries looking to make an impact have opportunity to capitalize on the need for smaller portions, making artisan foods less wasteful, and easier for on-the-go Millennials.

Brands Doing It Right

From handcrafted breads, cheese, beer and much more, there are many different brands getting in on the artisan action. Out of them all, there’s a few that have especially stood out to us and who are doing artisanal the right way and succeeding.

Take Ithaca Hummus, for example. It’s an artisanal brand that makes cold-crafted hummus using raw ingredients that allow the consumers to truly enjoy its natural flavor. After all, there is nothing artificial about them or their product. Brooklynn Bred is a shining example of an artisan bread brand who is excelling. They have a compelling story about family and a focus on an authentic product. Esti Mediterranean Foods focuses on its history and combining the true flavors of the Mediterranean with natural and flavorful products. Ozery Bakery is creating unique alternatives to traditional bread products using whole grains, fruits, and seeds to turn the artisan bread market on their heads. These brands, and many others, are driving the artisan market forward and giving the consumers a unique experience backed by authenticity and quality.

Where Can It Go?

With big retailers needing to jump on the artisan bandwagon, they’re actively looking for smaller artisanal brands to fill stores and drive sales and traffic. This becomes a huge opportunity for artisan brands to get their products into mainstream markets. Consumers are also looking to purchase artisan products online; they are even willing to purchase fresh products, if they come with a freshness guarantee. With the increasing popularity of meal subscription boxes, it has driven consumers to be more comfortable with fresh products being delivered straight to their door. While online sales are a small portion of overall specialty food sales, it has grown 41% since 2016, making it the fastest growing sector of specialty food and one of the biggest opportunity for artisan brands.

Artisan isn’t just a trend. For many, it is a lifestyle and it isn’t going anywhere. With sales continuing to rise, there is nowhere artisan can’t go. From food to beverage, from beauty to health aid. Artisanal product will continue to be wherever the consumers go.