The specialty food industry continued to skyrocket in 2017 as dollar sales hit $127 billion: a 15 percent jump in total sales between 2014 and 2016, according to the State of the Specialty Food Industry. General food sales at retail only moved up by 2.3 percent, with total unit sales for specialty foods up 13.1 percent.

As consumers become more invested in the quality of the foods they eat and what they are made of, these specialty food trends continue to outpace the rest of the industry. Since most specialty categories contain choices that are health-focused, organic and fresh, options within the non-specialty realm satisfy the market’s needs and wants less frequently.

According to SFA research, mainstream retail channels and foodservice outlets help drive sales, with seventy-eight percent of specialty food sales happening via retail. Snacks are also responsible for 28 percent of the total specialty food market, with sales increasing by 3.4 percent in 2017.

As for 2018, the SFA’s trendspotters predict that plant-based options, upcycled products and greater visibility on product labeling will be among the new year’s most prominent shifts. Items like cheese and frozen desserts are displaying growth in plant-based subcategories, with this year offering more plant-based convenience foods. As the future of the industry moves forward, consumers will only become increasingly interested in their food’s ingredient sources, and transparency when it comes to additives.


Specialty food continues to rise in popularity with each passing year, with the sales of indulgent snacks having increased by 3.4 percent in 2017. Most of these snacks have begun combining the market’s health-conscious attitude with exotic ethnic flavors, and the best ingredients available.


When it comes to condiments most consumers, especially millenials, search for exotic products that avoid unhealthy additions to food. Trends driving the industry stem from more exotic and diverse flavors, with gluten free and organic choices.


Consumers’ more sophisticated tastes and tendencies to snack are driving sales of bite-sized, individually wrapped and portable chocolates, according to SFA data. The U.S. chocolate market is expected to cross into the $30 billion mark by 2021, with consumers in the 15-to-24 age group standing as major trend generators.


Specialty cheese saw an exuberant bust of growth in 2017 as the category continued to gain more popularity. With gourmet snacking and cheese boards on the rise, read more about 2018 projected trends according to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.


Coffee consumption has risen steadily over the last few years, with a reported sixty-two percent of Americans drinking a daily cup of coffee in 2017. While coffee holds a continuous spot within consumers’ daily lives, industry experts have noted that hot tea is also a growing item for many Americans, according to SFA data.


The Organic Trade Association says 85 percent of U.S. households bought organic in 2017. Since “real” and “clean” foods are a focus within consumer shopping, natural, fresh and preservative-free foods will be the most looked at for attributes throughout 2018.


During the 2017 back-to-college season the housewares industry grew 2 percent, grossing over $100 million more than 2016 stats. Also up by 79 percent, several retailers will take factors like increased competition and online coordination into account for the 2018 season.