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    Specialty Food Market Hits a High

    SFA’s annual report reveals fast-growing categories and strength of the retail channel

    Lynn Petrak

    Senior Editor


    Consumers shelled out more for specialty foods, new report shows.

    Consumers really were checking out new and interesting foods during the time they spent at home. The New York City-based Specialty Food Association (SFA) is out with its annual report, showing retail sales of specialty foods spiked 24% from 2018 to 2020 and 19.4% during 2020 alone. The specialty food market is estimated at $170.4 billion, a new high.

    In its report, “The State of the Specialty Food Industry: 2021-22 Edition,” SFA concluded that the higher sales reflected the pandemic’s impact on purchasing trends and food preparation and consumption. Moreover, while it will take years for the restaurant industry to rebound, the report predicts that retail performance is likely to remain strong.

    Trend watchers can take note of the fastest growing categories, led by seasonings and followed by shelf-stable sauces, pasta and pizza; beans, grains, rice; fruit; frozen fruit and vegetables; refrigerated creams and creamers; refrigerated plant-based meat alternatives; refrigerated pasta, ready-to-drink tea and coffee; tofu; and shelf stable creams and creamers.

    Traditional categories are still raking in the most retail sales, including meat, poultry and seafood; cheese; chips, pretzels and snacks; bread and baked goods; coffee and hot cocoa; desserts; refrigerated and frozen entrees; chocolate; and condiments, dressings and marinades.

    SFA’s findings reinforce other commonly-held notions about shifting consumer behaviors, including the rise of plant-based specialty foods, momentum in e-commerce and

    The ripple across all channels of the specialty food industry has been tremendous,” said SFA President Bill Lynch. “We’ve seen businesses flex their creativity in ways they never could have imagined, from restaurants becoming pop-up specialty food grocers to makers increasing production to meet consumer demand. Despite these historic challenges, the industry has continued to innovate and grow, as outlined in our annual research.”