What is the Specialty Food Association’s definition of “specialty foods?”

We define specialty food products as:

  • Foods and beverages that exemplify quality, innovation, and style
  • Products defined by some - or all - of these characteristics:
    • originality, authenticity, ethnic or cultural origin, specific processing, ingredients, limited supply, distinctive use, extraordinary packaging, and/or specific channel of distribution or sale
  • Products that maintain a high perceived value and often command a premium price

Who can apply for membership with the Specialty Food Association?

Start-ups and businesses in early-stage product development are welcome to join as well as established food manufacturers. We also welcome buyers, distributors, and brokers to SFA membership (see full list below).

There are two classes of membership, GENERAL and ALLIANCE.

General Members:
Businesses engaged in or with an intent to engage in the production, selling, or reselling of a specialty food product. General Membership is in two tiers (defined below). Examples of qualified businesses include, but are not limited to:

  • Manufacturers
  • Accessory Suppliers
  • Brokers
  • Distributors
  • e-commerce Buyers
  • Importers
  • Ingredient Suppliers
  • Labels/Packaging
  • Retailers
  • Wholesalers

Alliance Members:
Businesses engaged in advancing and/or supporting the specialty food industry. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Consultants
  • Financial Services
  • Freight Services
  • Government Organizations
  • Graphic Designers
  • Incubators
  • Investment Entities
  • Legal
  • Logistics
  • Marketing Services
  • Media
  • Pavilion Organizers
  • Public Relations
  • Shipping
  • Software/Digital Solutions
  • Universities

What companies are not eligible for Specialty Food Association membership?

Manufacturers of:

  • Pet food
  • Foods containing CBD* or THC
  • Nutritional/health supplements (products such as vitamins or amino acids intended to supplement one's diet)

*Due to FDA rulings that food/beverages may not contain CBD, no CBD products may be promoted at SFA events. Our venue partners, including the Javits Center in NYC, also typically prohibit the marketing of CBD products.

What does it cost to join the Specialty Food Association?

Membership Dues*$300$500
Application Fee**$100$100
Product Qualification***$150N/A

*Membership dues automatically renew every 12 months based upon join/anniversary date. All membership fees are non-refundable.
** One-time fee only - not charged for renewal.
*** Those wishing to take advantage of Tier 2 benefits (see below), must go through Product Qualification.

What is required when applying for SFA membership?

Applicants need to provide the following information:

  • Company details and contact information
  • Company demographics
  • Evidence of connection to the specialty food industry
  • Digital acknowledgement of online terms/conditions and member agreement
  • Payment information for processing

How long does the process take to become a member of the SFA?

Applicants will receive an email confirmation in approximately five business days.

All approved applicants for membership come into the SFA as Tier 1 members.

What are the differences between Tier 1 and Tier 2 membership?

SFA Tier 1 benefits include:

  • The Specialty Food Magazine (quarterly)
  • The daily SFA eNewsletter - Specialty Food News
  • Access to the SFA Learning Center
  • Our Trendspotter Trends information
  • Member discounts on SFA research, webinars, and events
  • A dedicated SFA staff member to help with questions and any needs

To participate as a Tier 2 member, you must be a Tier 1-approved member and go through our product qualification evaluation.

Tier 2 benefits are:

  • Exhibiting at The Fancy Food Shows*
  • Participating in the Spotlight Showcases and New, Now, Next at the Fancy Food Shows
  • Entering the sofi™ Awards

* If you are an International Manufacturer not yet selling in the US marketplace and are inquiring about exhibiting at the Fancy Food Show, please contact our International Development Manager, Mimo Boulefrakh, at mboulefrakh@specialtyfood.com

What does product qualification entail?

Once SFA Tier 1 membership has been approved, qualified businesses receive information detailing the steps needed for Tier 2 membership, notably product evaluation and qualification.

An evaluation is conducted to determine if products meet the standards for specialty food. Products are scored on several attributes, including packaging, labeling, ingredients, product appearance, taste and overall quality.


  • A one-time, $150 non-refundable evaluation fee
  • Products must have been sold in the U.S. marketplace for a minimum of six months
  • Only food and beverage products designed for human consumption are eligible
  • Companies must submit one product that best represents their line of products

How do I apply for membership in the Specialty Food Association?

It’s all done online. You will need to create a login with username and password to access the online application. We’ll then send you a verification email with a link to verify your account, you can then complete the online application.

Please click here to begin.

The Process of Joining SFA

Applicants for membership will receive confirmation in approximately five business days - after their application has been reviewed by the SFA and all requirements have been satisfied.

All approved applicants for Specialty Food Association memberships come into the association as Tier 1 members. Benefits are outlined above.

Tier 2 benefits include exhibiting at the Fancy Food Shows* and any SFA digital events, entering our sofi Awards™, and more.

*If you are an International Manufacturer not yet selling in the US marketplace and are inquiring about exhibiting at the Fancy Food Show, please contact our International Development Manager, Mimo Boulefrakh, at mboulefrakh@specialtyfood.com(Opens in a new window)

Qualified Tier 1 Members will receive all the information needed to submit their product for qualification (one-time fee of $150 applies) to take advantage of all Tier 2 membership.

Click here to read the membership terms and conditions.