How the Specialty Food Industry Has Evolved into a $127 Billion Industry

There has been a shift in consumer demand for hand-made, artisan foods in the last few years. It’s no longer just our industry recognizing the art and dedication behind these products. We decided to sit down with Specialty Food Association President Phil Kafarakis to talk about this shift and how it’s impacting the specialty food sector.

The Specialty Food Association (SFA) has been around for 65 years, so this segment is not new to the industry. Previously known as the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT), the Specialty Food Association is best known for its bi-annual Fancy Food Show. It has been sold out every year for more than 10 years, proving that specialty food products are growing in popularity.

Artisan food manufacturers have built up the community after a shift in consumer behavior. Consumers are asking questions they didn’t used to ask like, ‘Where does this come from?’, ‘Who makes this?’, ‘What’s its story?’ and this community is finally getting a chance to shine.

Restaurants operators have helped to foster thus growth. “They’ve got phenomenal cheese cases from around the world, they’ve got charcuterie bars, these folks represent the industry at large. And what we're finding is that no longer does it serve the membership to be buyer specific to the retail channel," said Kafarakis. So now, by opening up their doors to a wider range of consumers, we are seeing that the foodservice industry is not the only sector infatuated with fancy food.

Kafarakis also notes that there are special challenges associated with opening up to the market at large. Being specialty food, some artisan manufacturers might not be prepared to provide large quantities of product as the larger, non-specialty food companies. The SFA’s job is to prepare them and help them be successful– while retaining the authenticity and integrity of their products. With more than 35,000 manufacturers ranging from startups to mature companies, the specialty food sector is now a 127 billion dollar industry.