Frozen Leads Specialty Retail Categories


A look at sales and current industry performance shows fresh, refrigerated, frozen, plant-based, and health-focused are key words related to growth. Notably, seven of the top 10 categories by retail sales are chilled or frozen foods, according to The Specialty Food Association (SFA). Working with Mintel, SFA has revamped its annual research into one new, comprehensive State of the Specialty Food Industry report that explores where the market is today, 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.

Below are some of the key findings:

  • Sixty-five percent of consumers purchase specialty foods, leading the industry to $140.3 billion in retail and foodservice sales in 2017—an 11 percent increase over 2015.
  • Foodservice accounts for 21.6 percent of sales.
  • Specialty food and beverage sales as a share of total market reached 15.8 percent. Plant-based categories dominate the top four spots and are expected to grow over the next five years.
  • Retail dollar sales for specialty foods grew 12.9 percent, versus 1.4 percent growth for all food.
  • Foodservice and online are burgeoning bright spots for specialty food Sales. Each grew more than brick-and-mortar retail sales from 2015 to 2017. The retail maker is increasing but at a slower rate as it matures. The supply chain reports growth potential in the convenience, drug, and vending channels.
  • Mainstream channels comprise 82 percent of total retail sales.
  • The iGeneration (18-23) has arrived and has a greater awareness of specialty food than its predecessors. But they are not just younger millennials: Their points of view as to where they shop and what they consume will shift the industry.

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