Last year, we reported that the specialty food industry brought in a record-breaking $120.5 billion in sales in 2015. This year, we’re elated to report an even bigger record-breaker: an eye-opening $127 billion in sales in 2016 (a 15 percent jump since 2014)—and specialty retailers took home nearly $6.4 billion of that total (about 11 percent of the total market share), according to the Specialty Food Association’s annual “State of the Industry 2017” report.

The trend is clear: Consumers are increasingly picky about the foods they purchase. They want clean, transparent, wholesome ingredients that they can feel good about eating. They are shunning the mass-produced legacy brands of yesteryear and, instead, opting for the hidden treasures that arise from small-batch, often family-owned productions—making “handmade” and “local” claims even more powerful.

The numbers don’t lie: Only four of 61 specialty food categories recorded sales declines between 2014 and 2016, according to the report. In 2016, retailers’ average specialty food transaction size increased by a whopping 19 percent. Among all food sales at retail, specialty foods accounted for 14.8 percent, which equals categories like meat and produce.

“Specialty foods are outpacing their non-specialty counterparts in almost every category as consumers continue to become more aware of quality in their food choices,” reads the report.

But finding the newest and most unique products can be a full-time job. That’s why we’ve featured hundreds in the Summer issue of Fancy Food & Culinary Products magazine. Simply flip through these pages to shop the latest launches and bestsellers from specialty food producers around the country. We’ve included facts and information on the industry’s most popular categories to keep you up to date on trends and findings. Flip to Condiments to check out a special “Hot & Spicy” section (Pages 20-21); turn to Housewares for a trends report from the 2017 International Home & Housewares Show; and read about the family- owned businesses producing Italian cheese in Wisconsin

There is a complete specialty food trade show at your fingertips, right here in these pages. Use it to optimize inventory, diversify selection and attract more shoppers to your store.

Snacks, Page 8

Shelf-stable items accounted for 61 percent of total specialty food sales in 2016, or $36.2 billion, and many of those items fall under snacks. From lentil-based chips to organic salsa to wellness bars, consumers are continuing to opt for small snacks over the traditional three-meals-a-day.

Cheese & Plant-Based Cheese, page 14

The largest specialty food category, cheese refuses to slow down, garnering $4.42 billion in sales in 2016. It’s clear that Americans are intensifying their love affair with cheese, and the dining habits of Millennials play right into this category’s strong points: cleaner ingredients, local production and family-owned, small-batch operations.

Condiments, Page 17

The center aisle is alive and well, and the proof is in the numbers. Specialty Fruit Spreads, Jams & Jellies grew by 16.2 percent from 2014-2016, compared with mass-market’s 1.6 percent. Be sure to check out our “Hot & Spicy” coverage, Pages 20-21.

Natural & Organic, Page 24

Specialty food categories that are “aligned with better-for-you options; health and wellness; and freshness are growing fastest,” reads the SFA report. Sought-after health claims currently include “organic,” “non-GMO,” “high-in-protein” and “local.” This year, however, “sustainable” is attracting much more attention.

Chocolate & Confections, page 26

While American shoppers are watching their health, they’re not afraid to indulge when the time is right. Chocolate & Confectionery is the sixth largest specialty food category in sales, and it’s known as a “gateway” product to get first-time buyers hooked on specialty foods.

Coffee & Tea, page 31

The long-known health benefits of coffee and tea transcend culture, geography and demographic. They’re among the most consumed beverages in the world, and today they’re undergoing a resurgence as manufacturers produce unique coffee-and tea-infused products. From the superfood Kombucha craze to cold-pressed brews, RTD and non-RTD coffee and tea beverages are performing astoundingly well.

Housewares, Page 32

Millennials and the younger generations are driving the specialty food trends in many cases as they search for new culinary experiences to share with friends. It’s all about social gatherings, photo-worthy moments and making memories. Whether cheese boards, wine glasses or serving platters, retailers must carry a unique and diverse selection to help these hosts impress their guests.