The UK gourmet food market is set to grow by 30% in the next five years as consumers become increasingly uninspired by mass-produced food, according to a new report from market analyst Datamonitor.

The UK is Europe’s second-largest gourmet food market, behind France.  In terms of per capita consumption, however, British fine food consumers take the lead, spending over £900 (US$1,700) per year each on fine foods.

“One of the most important trends in grocery over the past ten years has been the emergence of the market for organic, natural and fresh produce. This rapidly growing market stands as proof that today’s consumers are prepared to spend a premium on food provided that they can see a clear value in it for them,” said Datamonitor’s Andrew Russell, author of the report.

According to Datamonitor, 2003 sales of fine dining foods were worth £4.2bn in the UK and are forecast to increase by 31%, to £5.5bn in 2008. France is far and away the biggest market, in Europe, followed by the UK, Germany and Italy. The fastest growing markets, however, are Italy (+33%), the Netherlands (+32%) and the UK (+31%).

Datamonitor’s research reveals that other consumer groups, such as wealthy seniors and urban singles, are now taking an interest in fine dining at home, especially now that premium foods, such as such as shiitake mushrooms, corn-fed free range chicken and rosemary flavoured cold pressed extra virgin olive oil are appearing on supermarket shelves.