Specialty Food Sales Near $150 Billion: 2019 State of the Specialty Food Industry Report Released

NEW YORK, NY (June 4, 2019) – The Specialty Food Association’s (SFA) annual State of the Specialty Food Industry Report, issued today, 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 9.8 percent between 2016 and 2018, reaching $148.7 billion last year. 

Specialty food sales outpaced the growth of all food at retail – up 10.3 percent vs. 3.1 percent. Product innovation and the wider availability of specialty foods through mass-market outlets is playing a part in the industry’s success. Sales through foodservice represented 22 percent of sales, with retail taking the top spot with 76 percent of sales. While online represents less than three percent of sales, it has grown 41 percent since 2016.

“Diverse consumer lifestyles are taking specialty foods mainstream,” said Phil Kafarakis, president of the SFA. “To reach these consumers and increase their own sales, food merchants have embraced the vast assortment of specialty products. Our research outlines the momentum in the industry and provides a comprehensive picture of where we are today and how businesses can prepare for the future. Conducting important research like this is a part of our mission to champion specialty foods and help our members continue to innovate and succeed.”

The SFA combines its annual research into a comprehensive State of the Specialty Food Industry report and Category Tracking and Forecasts. Working with Mintel, the research 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 Five Categories with Highest Dollar Growth 

Refrigerated Plant-Based Meat Alternatives
Rice Cakes
Frozen Plant-Based Meat Alternatives
Refrigerated RTD Tea and Coffee

Top Five Categories – Retail Sales

Cheese and Plant-Based Cheese
Frozen, Refrigerated Meat, Poultry, Seafood
Chips, Pretzels, Snacks
Non-RTD Coffee and Hot Cocoa
Bread and Baked Goods

Share of Consumers Buying Specialty Foods by Generation (2018)

Gen-Z – 66 percent 
Millennials – 84 percent 
Gen-X – 75 percent 
Baby Boomers – 69 percent 

Top Seven Take-Aways

Plant-based is going strong
Specialty beverages are increasingly a force in the market
Younger consumers don’t look to supermarkets for quick meals
Reduced packaging and food waste are hot points
The C-store channel is an under-tapped market for specialty items
Foodservice needs to move to greater customization
Opportunity lies in breakfast

More information as well as a Full Report and Category Tracking & Forecasts 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 Sunday, June 23 – Tuesday, June 25.  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 3,800 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.

Specialty Food Association Media Contact:
PR Department, (646) 878-0130,

Facebook: Specialty Food Association
Twitter: @Specialty_Food
LinkedIn: Specialty Food Association
Pinterest: @specialtyfoodassociation
Instagram: @specialtyfoodassociation

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