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Specialty Food Sales Continue Strong Growth Trend

The Specialty Food Association is reporting that dollar sales for the specialty food industry grew by 15 percent between 2014 and 2016 and reached $127 billion in annual sales in 2016, now accounting for 14.8 percent of all food sales at retail. Snack food sales reached $16.3 billion in 2016, and snacks now account for about 28 percent of the entire specialty food market. Jerky and meat snacks led the growth for the snack food segment, leaping ahead by more than 86 percent between 2014 and 2016, while sales of chips, pretzels and similar snacks grew by 13.6 percent between 2014 and 2016 and now account for more than $3.5 billion in annual sales.

Cheese, including plant-based cheese alternatives, still continues to be the leading category in the specialty food market, with $4.422 billion in sales during 2016, for a 12.4 percent increase between 2014 and 2016.

The information comes from the Specialty Food Association’s annual report on the state of the specialty food industry. “The State of the Specialty Food Industry 2017” is a collaboration between the Specialty Food Association and market research firm Mintel. The report indicates that while specialty food sales continued to climb in 2016, growth in retail and foodservice channels slowed over the previous year, partly due to an increase in online purchasing for these products.

Some of the growth in the retail channel is coming in mainstream retail channels, with growth in sales in chain grocery stores and mass merchants outpacing that in natural and specialty chains for the first time. Growth is also happening in the foodservice channel, as more fine dining restaurants adopt specialty food products into their menus. Foodservice represents more than one fifth of specialty food sales and grew by 13.7 percent between 2014 and 2016.

Raw Milk Cheese Appreciation Day Coming Up

Cheese lovers (a.k.a. turophiles) around the world will have the chance to nibble on traditional raw milk cheeses at more than 600 events on April 22, 2017, designated Raw Milk Cheese Appreciation Day.

Created by the Oldways Cheese Coalition in 2015, and in association with the prestigious Guilde Internationale des Fromagers, this worldwide holiday offers cheese enthusiasts a chance to participate in events celebrating the distinctiveness and cultural heritage of cheeses made with raw milk.

This year’s celebration will highlight four worldwide flagship events at:

  • London: Neal’s Yard Dairy
  • Sao Paulo, Brazil: Mercearia Mestre Queijeiro
  • Mexico City: Lactography
  • Paris: La Vache dans les Vignes

Even if you can’t make one of the flagship events, there are hundreds more, taking place everywhere from Whole Foods to your local cheese shop. (Partial list)

“Raw milk cheeses are unique in flavor, history, and carry on traditional cheesemaking practices,” said Carlos Yescas, Program Director, Oldways Cheese Coalition. “The producers who make them are passionate about craftsmanship and animal husbandry. Their cheeses represent years, even decades, of knowledge and thoughtful innovation to better their products.”

Since cheese was first discovered many millennia ago it has been made with pure raw milk. In fact, it was only in the last century that cheese began to be made with pasteurized milk.

More than half of cheese lovers prefer raw milk cheeses and purchase them regularly. It’s no wonder since the natural microflora in raw milk produces cheeses — such as Le Gruyère AOP, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Roquefort and many American originals — that are characteristic of local environments, expressive of terroir, and evocative of complex flavors.

Another benefit? Scientific studies reveal that, when consumed in moderation, cheese is a tremendous way to add healthy fats, minerals, vitamins and probiotics to your diet.

Retailers, restaurants, producers and cheese enthusiasts are invited to participate with their own events. For more information about how to be involved with Raw Milk Cheese Appreciation Day or to join the Oldways Cheese Coalition, visit www.oldwayscheese.org.

Everyone is encouraged to join in the cheese conversation and celebration on Twitter and Instagram by using the hashtag #RawMilkCheese.

ACS Competition Now Open for Entries

The 2017 American Cheese Society Judging & Competition is now open for entries!

ACS’s annual judging of American cheeses and cultured dairy products will take place July 24-25, 2017 in the organization’s hometown of Denver, Colorado. The judging will be held immediately prior to Cheese with Altitude, the 34th Annual ACS Conference in Denver.

Winners in each category, including “Best of Show” honorees, will be revealed at the Awards Ceremony in Denver on Friday, July 28. Entry deadline is May 12, with late entries accepted until May 19 for a higher fee.

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