Specialty Foods Earned $140.3 Billion in Sales in 2017

Jerky and meat snacks, ready-to-drink coffee and tea, rice cakes, and water. What’s one thing that all these products have in common?

These are some of the specialty food categories that have seen the highest dollar growth from 2015 to 2017.

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Overall, specialty food sales have risen 11 percent in the past three years, according to the Specialty Food Association. Raking in $140.3 billion last year, this segment has grown faster than all food sold at retail.

"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."

With premium water up 76 percent, rice cakes 64.1 percent, RTD coffee and tea 63.2 percent, and jerky and meat snacks by 62.1 percent, larger companies like chocolate giant, Hershey’s, are taking advantage of the growth by acquiring smaller companies like Krave.

This strategy is proving to be a successful one, as Krave topped one billion dollars in sales last year. But there is a higher expectation that consumers hold these specialty food brands to.

Consumers want specialty foods to be more than just an average flavor and texture, and they must be unique products. There is also high demand for clean labels, healthier alternatives, and transparency from the company.

Krave’s sales within the last year were successful because its snacks are low in fat, don’t have artificial ingredients, and are minimally processed which is a vast difference from the usual greasy jerky from convenience stores that consumers normally think of.

What could this new research on specialty foods mean for companies looking to penetrate the market?

Read more information on the rise of specialty foods at “Food Dive.”