According to the “State of the Specialty Food Industry” report recently released by the Specialty Food Association in conjunction with market researcher Mintel and SPINS/IRI, the specialty food industry has expanded by 15 percent, amounting to $127 billion in sales, between 2014 and 2016.

A better understanding of the growth can be found in comparing retail sales of all foods, which only experienced a 2.3 percent growth in the same time frame. Specialty unit sales were up 13.6 percent.

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

According to the State of the Specialty Food Industry report:
  • Specialty food sales in multi-unit grocery and mass merchants outpaced that of natural or specialty chains for the first time, largely a result of the convenience-minded millennial generation who seek and buy specialty foods wherever they are shopping.
  • Specialty beverages account for a much smaller percent of the total specialty food retail market than food, but sales performance outpaced food between 2014 and 2016, at 24 percent versus 15 perfect. Refrigerated RTD tea and coffee and juices and functional beverages are driving a lot of the growth.
  • While fresh and perishable category growth is soaring, grocery (shelf-stable specialty foods) accounted for 61 percent of the total specialty food market in 2016, or $36.2 billion. Wellness bars and gels, and nut and seed butters were among categories demonstrating strong growth.
As consumers become more educated about the health benefits gained through eating specialty foods, the growth of specialty foods continues to outpace non-specialty foods in comparable categories. Addition statistics contained in the report can be foundhere.