Frozen & refrigerated meat, poultry and seafood, frozen desserts, frozen lunch or dinner entrees and refrigerated entrees are among the top 10 categories driving retail sales in specialty foods in the U.S., according to The Specialty Food Association’s (SFA) annual State of the Specialty Food Industry Report (generated in partnership with Mintel).
Based on the research, frozen & refrigerated plant-based meat alternatives, as well as refrigerated ready-to-drink tea and coffee are among the specialty food categories which are seeing the highest dollar.
The specialty category remains one of the fastest-growing segments of the food business. Fueled by increasing interest from both consumers and retailers, total sales increased with 9.8% between the 2016-2018 period, hitting USD148.7bn last year.
The report notes that 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 3% of sales, it has grown 41% since 2016.
SFA writes that it has seen the future growth of the category being driven more by foodservice, convenience, and vending, including drug store chains. Today all these different players are willing to carry some of these products.
“Diverse consumer lifestyles are taking specialty foods mainstream. To reach these consumers and increase their own sales, food merchants have embraced the vast assortment of specialty products,” said Phil Kafarakis, president of SFA, New York.
Additionally, SFA writes that Millennials is the largest consumer group buying specialty foods with 84%. The iGeneration (18-23) 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 ship and what the consumer will shift the industry.