National Specialty Suppliers

SFA Report: Specialty Food Sales Hit Record $140.3B In 2017

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The Specialty Food Association’s (SFA) annual “State of the Specialty Food Industry” report reveals that specialty food remains one of the fastest-growing segments of the food business.

Fueled by increasing interest from both consumers and retailers, total sales jumped 11 percent between 2015 and 2017, hitting sales of $140.3 billion last year, SFA says.

Specialty food sales outpaced the growth of all food at retail—up 12.9 percent vs. 1.4 percent.  According to SFA, product innovation and the wider availability of specialty foods through mass-market outlets is also playing a part in the industry’s success.

Online sales increased by 21 percent and foodservice sales were up 12.8 percent 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, SFA president. “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.”

This year, SFA 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.

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Key facts and figures from the report

Top 5 categories with highest dollar growth (% change 2015-17)

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

Share of consumers buying specialty foods by generation (2018)

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

Top U.S. dollar sales of specialty food by market segment (% change 2015-17)

  • Brick-and-Mortar Retail Channels: +10.7 percent
  • Foodservice: +12.8 percent
  • Online: +20.9 percent

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, click here.

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About the author

Mike Berger

A veteran 20-year editor of The Griffin Report who often tours various supermarkets to check out the latest trends. When he isn’t writing, he enjoys sports, his family and young, energetic grandchild.

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