The specialty food category outpaced all other food and beverage categories, reporting retail and foodservice sales growth of 12.9 percent compared to 1.4 percent. Sales through foodservice increased 12.8 percent and online by 21 percent.
The top five categories with the highest dollar growth between 2015 and 2017 were water (76.1 percent), rice cakes (64.1 percent), refrigerated ready-to-drink (RTD) tea and coffee (63.2 percent), jerky and meat snacks (62.1 percent), and shelf-stable creams and creamers (61.7 percent). iGens were the largest purchasing group of specialty foods (79 percent), followed by Millennials (67 percent), Gen Xers (65 percent), and Baby Boomers (60 percent).
“The specialty food industry is a business that is constantly evolving,” said Phil Kafarakis, president of the Specialty Food Association. “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.”