The US-based Specialty Food Association (SFA) published the report, The State of The Specialty Food Industry 2023-2024, last week. The association helps food retailers with networking and also researches consumer behaviour.
According to the official website of US-based Roland Foods, a supplier of specialty foods, the term ‘specialty food’ refers to a category of foods that have high value, contain good quality ingredients and are produced in small batches. This category encompasses condiments and spreads, meats, vegetables and oils, tea and coffee.
The report was released at The Summer Fancy Food Show, which was held in New York last week. It was an exhibition of such foods, with categories ranging from snacks like vegetable chips, plantain nuggets, and roasted nuts to ready-to-drink coffee and tea.
According to the report, the top specialty food categories were chips, pretzels, and snacks last year. These categories were also the fastest-growing from 2020 to 2022, which means that people showed an increased interest in these kinds of foods. Snacks were followed by the meat and poultry category in second place, with cheese and plant-based cheese coming in third. There was also an increased demand for specialty chocolate, refrigerated meals and desserts.
The recent trends, as per the report, revealed that plant-based products were getting popular, with plant-based milk making up 37% of all plant-based specialty food sales in 2022. Meanwhile, plant-based meat alternatives took a hit in 2020, with a 33% decline. This trend was also seen in 2021 and 2022. The report hypothesized that these numbers indicated the category was in the middle of a reset.
Another trend showed that shelf-stable foods became more popular than those that would spoil easily. For example, the category of energy and sports drinks grew faster than tea and coffee, refrigerated meals, or cookies and snack bars.
It is clear that people are snacking more than ever, and washing them down with refreshing sports drinks.