Fueled by increasing interest from both consumers and retailers, specialty food sales jumped 9.8% between 2016 and 2018, reaching $148.7 billion last year, according to The Specialty Food Association's (SFA) annual State of the Specialty Food Industry Report.
Specialty food sales outpaced the growth of all food at retail, up 10.3% vs. 3.1%. 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% of sales, with retail taking the top spot with 76% of sales. While online represents less than three percent of sales, it has grown 41% since 2016.
This year’s Fancy Food Show, hosted by SFA, featured a slew of companies adopting the top food trends, some in unique and innovative ways.
It’s no surprise that plant-based alternatives are prevalent at the show, but many businesses are going beyond the standard veggie burger or almond milk. Fruit and vegetable jerky is a popular item, with offerings like mushroom and banana jerky popping up across the show floor. On the opposite end, you have companies sticking with the traditional animal-based jerky, but adding premium ingredients, like wagyu or filet mignon.
Another trend that has endured for the past few years is water. But this isn’t just your standard spring water. Startups are adding extra benefits like more oxygen or sustainable sourcing to create a high-end drink, while some are offering add-ins like flavor straws or drops. Others are building on the popularity of coconut water, adding juices and spices to differentiate themselves. Maple water, rose water and aloe water have also been trending.
Additional products to keep an eye out for include coconut yogurt, vegetable-infused ice cream, single-serve pickle snacks, whipped honey, quinoa chocolate and sesame milk.
As for trends that may have passed their peak, we’re seeing fewer artisan barbecue sauces, kombucha, specialty sodas, and purple and black foods. Popcorn innovation may be dying down as well, giving way to other snacks like dried chickpeas and popped quinoa.
Check the July 1st edition of the Food Institute Report for our full trend rundown from the Fancy Food Show.
Jennette has been with The Food Institute since 2013. As Marketing Director, she is responsible for promoting all Food Institute books, seminars and webinars, as well as writing and editing the Food Institute’s annual publications. Additionally, she writes for and edits the daily news update, Today in Food, and contributes to the weekly Food Institute Report. She has a background in non-profit and environmental marketing, programming and writing, and graduated from Rowan University in 2012 with a degree in Communication Studies.
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