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Sales of specialty foods continue to boom. From 2011 to 2013, sales increased by 18.4 percent. In 2013, retail dollar sales grew an impressive 8 percent. Working with Mintel International and SPINS, the Specialty Food Association has tracked sales of specialty foods through supermarkets, specialty food stores, and natural food retailers, as well as gathered benchmarking data from the supply chain. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Total specialty food sales in 2013 topped $88.3 billion.
  • Approximately 80 percent of specialty food sales are at retail.
  • Cheese and Cheese Alternatives is the largest category, with $3.99 billion in sales in 2013, and a growth rate of 16.1 percent between 2011 and 2013.
  • The fastest-growing categories include Nut and Seed Butters (51.6 percent), Eggs (35.9 percent), and Frozen Desserts (28.2 percent).
  • Categories with the most significant penetration are Refrigerated Salsas and Dips (49.8 percent) and Tea (40.1 percent).
  • With growth slowing in mainstream supermarkets, unit sales were also sluggish, showing a -0.8 percent change from 2011 to 2013. Unit sales in natural food stores and specialty food stores grew more rapidly: 23.2 percent and 21.1 percent, respectively, according to data from SPINS tracked channels.
  • In retail segments, specialty food stores recorded the biggest sales increase, at 42.4 percent between 2011 and 2013, followed by natural food stores, at 33.8 percent.
  • More than 8 in 10 specialty food manufacturers recorded positive sales in 2013.
  • Distributors say non-GMO has the highest potential for growth of all product claims over the next three years.
  • Importers report that Latin and Mediterranean are two of the fastest-growing cuisines.
  • The size of the average specialty food store is 4,748 square feet, with 1,877 SKUs. Average transactions per week exceed 2,500.
  • Seven in 10 specialty food retailers report that Local is the most important product claim. 


Here are top level statistics with regards to the size of the Specialty Food Industry at Retail and Foodservice.
For the Summary and Full Report please see below.

The specialty food sector rose 18.4 percent during 2011-­2013. Some signs indicate the market is beginning to mature, but the growth rate has not faded much; during 2010­-2012, the rate of change was 22.1 percent. The foodservice and retail channels continue to grow at about the same pace, such that foodservice continues to account for a 20.5 percent share, while all retail outlets combined transact 79.5 percent.

With strong dollar sales growth year after year, it becomes more challenging for the market to continue its expansion rate. Retail growth of 18.4 percent during 2011-­2013 is impressive, but lower than the 2010-­2012 retail growth rate of 22.3 percent.

While mainstream supermarkets still account for more than two-thirds of specialty food sales, their share has been steadily slipping over the past three years. In contrast, specialty food stores leaped 42.4 percent to $9.6 billion and now account for 23.6 percent of sales. Natural retailers grew nearly as fast as specialty food stores, at 34 percent, to reach $3.9 billion in 2013.


The Specialty Food Association’s State of the Specialty Food Industry is a joint research project prepared by Mintel International and SPINS. The research encompasses three years of sales data for 59 specialty food categories, pulled from the SPINS database of mainstream and natural food stores. In addition, Mintel surveyed specialty food manufacturers, importers, distributors, brokers, and retailers to develop the statistics presented in this report.

FOR INFORMATION, including definitions and brand examples of specialty food segments researched for this report, visit this page.


The FULL REPORT will be available in the coming weeks.