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Study: Specialty Food Sales Reach Record Highs

NEW YORK — U.S. sales of specialty food and beverages rose 14.3% to $86 billion in 2012 — more than double the 6.8% increase recorded the previous year — according to the Specialty Food Association’s annual State of the Specialty Food Industry report.

Cheese and cheese alternatives is the largest category with $3.6 billion in sales, followed by yogurt and kefir, which leapfrogged over other foods for the number two spot with $2.27 billion in 2012 sales. The next largest categories are chips, pretzels and snacks; coffee, coffee substitutes and cocoa, and meat, poultry and seafood. Energy bars and functional beverages stand out as the fastest growing specialty foods.

Read more: Independents Say Cheese

“Three years of solid growth is clear evidence that consumers are choosing specialty food as part of their everyday lives,” said Ron Tanner, vice president of communications and education for the Specialty Food Association, in a statement. “Not only the foods but the artisans and entrepreneurs behind them are enjoying remarkable attention and interest across the U.S."

The report tracks sales of specialty foods through supermarkets, natural food stores and specialty food retailers, and includes surveys of specialty food manufacturers, importers, distributors, brokers and retailers, and is prepared in conjunction with Mintel International and SPINS. It also found:

  • Gluten-free and convenient/easy-to-prepare are characteristics most likely to be included in product development plans this year.
  • Alcoholic beverages spiked to 13.3% of product introductions in 2012 as entrepreneurs introduced small batch offerings.
  • Importers report that Mediterranean is the fastest-growing cuisine followed by Latin, Italian and Vietnamese.
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