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.