LEAWOOD, Kan. – An after-work crowd recently gathered at the Leawood, Kansas, location of Dean & DeLuca for the official launch of a new meat and seafood counter.

An entire back wall of the store was cleared of shelving and product to make way for the installation. Matthew Bell, meat and seafood Category Manager for Dean & DeLuca, oversaw the installation of the counter at the Leawood store and another in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The project had a quick turnaround, said Bell, who joined Dean & DeLuca in October 2016. He knew the project was imminent when he joined the company. “It took about a week to get out here— I had already secured the vendors, so the supply chain was all set up. Then, the install happened, orders were here and we went live.”

“It’s essentially brand new,” Bell explained. “In order to get this up and running, we had to scale what we’re doing in New York which meant finding vendors that would provide us with product that I feel is stringent enough and has good enough quality to make it worthwhile to bring into the store.”

Visitors to the full-service meat and seafood counter will find plenty of Prime and Choice cuts of pork, beef, and lamb in the case along with whole chickens and chicken parts, an assortment of artisanal bacon and premium craft sausages. Trained staff members are well prepared to fill orders and offer preparation tips.

The install is timely, as the $127 billion industry continues to exhibit impressive growth. The Specialty Food Association (SFA) said in its annual State of the Industry report that sales of specialty foods and beverages jumped 15 percent between 2014 and 2016. Fueling the trend is the growth of small businesses, product innovations and wider availability of products through mass-market outlets.

“Consumer preferences for specialty food products are growing at double digits, outpacing mainstream food staples.” Phil Kafarakis, president of the Specialty Food Association, said in a statement. “The products our members create appeal to consumers looking for authentic tastes and foods with fewer and cleaner ingredients.

“Consumers are also making purchases wherever they happen to be, changing the retail food environment. The eagerness of all retailers including mass market, e-commerce, and foodservice to capitalize on these consumer trends is transforming the marketplace. Our research indicates that accelerated growth will continue and one of the things we’ll be doing at SFA’s 2017 Summer Fancy Food Show in June will be further exploring the projections we have for the future.”