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NEWS: Specialty Food Sales Hit Record $140.3 Billion

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posted Sunday Jun 17, 2018 05:15 PM

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The Specialty Food Association’s (SFA) annual State of the Specialty Food industry report, issued today, reveals that specialty food remain one of the fastest-growing segments of the food business. Fueled by increasing interest from both consumers and retailers, total sales jumped 11% between 2015 and 2017, hitting $140.3 billion last year. Specialty food sales outpaced the growth of all food at retail – up 12.9% vs. 1.4%.  Product innovation and the wider availability of specialty foods through mass-market outlets is also playing a part in the industry’s success. Sales through foodservice increased 12.8% and online by 21% as U.S. consumers make specialty food a regular part of their diets both at home and when dining out.

“The specialty food industry is a business that is constantly evolving,” said Phil Kafarakis, president of the Specialty Food Association. “Consumers of all ages are embracing specialty foods and making purchases everywhere they happen to be – from convenience stores to big box retailers to online, as well as in traditional gourmet shops and groceries. Foodservice and retailers are relying more and more upon our products. The industry’s growth has been building and will continue to maintain momentum for years to come. Our research provides a comprehensive picture of where we are today and can be used to help businesses prepare for future success.”

Beginning this year, the Specialty Food Association has refocused its annual research into a single, comprehensive State of the Specialty Food Industry report. Working with Mintel, the report explores where the current market stands, the opportunities and challenges it faces, where it is going based on sales forecasts in key categories, and how the specialty food consumer is evolving.

Key Facts and Figures:

Top 5 Categories with Highest Dollar Growth (% Change from 2015-2017)

  • Water +76.1%
  • Rice Cakes +64.1%
  • Refrigerated RTD Tea & Coffee +63.2%
  • Jerky & Meat Snacks +62.1%
  • Shelf-Stable Creams and Creamers +61.7%

Share of Consumers Buying Specialty Foods By Generation (2018)

  • iGens (age 18-23) 79%
  • Millennials (age 24-41) 67%
  • Gen Xers (age 42-53) 65%
  • Baby Boomers (age 54-72) 60%

Top U.S. Dollar Sales of Specialty Food by Market Segment (% change 2015 to 2017)

  • Brick-and-Mortar retail Channels +10.7%
  • Foodservice +12.8%
  • Online +20.9%

These highlights, as well as a full report can be found at

More on the State of the Specialty Food Industry Report will be detailed at a special session at the Summer Fancy Food Show – a trade only event held at the Jacob Javits Center from Saturday, June 30 – Monday, July 2. For more information or to register please visit

About the Specialty Food Association 
the Specialty Food Association is a thriving community of food artisans, importers, and entrepreneurs. Established in 1952 in New York, the not-for-profit trade association provides its 3,600 members in the U.S. and abroad with resources, knowledge and connections to champion and nurture their companies in an always-evolving marketplace. The Association owns and produces the Winter and Summer Fancy Food Shows, and presents the sofi™ Awards honoring excellence in specialty food. Learn more at

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