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Specialty Food Category Forecasts

November 17, 2017

More forward-looking research is something specialty food makers and buyers have told us would help them plan more effectively. So, working with market researcher Mintel, the Specialty Food Association has forecasted sales growth or decline of 33 specialty food categories over the next five years.

In this new research—first released as part of LevelUP, the new future-focused attraction rolled out at the Summer Fancy Food Show in June—Mintel projects which categories will grow, slow, or take off. Among those areas that will fare successfully, drivers include mega trends like fresh foods, convenience, wellness, snacking, sustainability, plus generational patterns like the huge millennial generation aging and starting families. 

For example, categories Mintel highlighted for strong growth potential included waters and snack and wellness bars, both driven by consumers’ interest in health, convenience, and desire for better-for-you alternatives. Interestingly, both of those categories were cited by the Specialty Food Association’s Trendspotter Panel at the Summer Fancy Food Show. Enhanced waters along with other low-sugar or functional beverages, and snack bars packed with ancient grains, fiber, nuts, and seeds were part of the on-trend product innovations the panel discovered at the show. 

Mintel’s David Lockwood and Shelley Balanko from the Hartman Group also partnered for a session at the Summer Show entitled, “The Food Market of Tomorrow: Trends and Forecasts to Prepare for Today,” where Lockwood reported the specialty food category overall is projected to grow 7.7 compound annual growth rate over the next five years. Consumers’ trading up to products that are artisanal, local, and have distinctive flavors will drive that growth, according the Hartman’s research. Balanko reported that 53 percent of consumers break from their normal eating routine at least once a week. Of those, 38 percent break for higher quality and 43 percent for variety—two hallmarks of specialty foods.

The category forecasts are available for download, free for members in the Learning Center on You can also download Lockwood and Balanko’s full session

What are your views these projections of the industry and your category in particular? We’d like to hear your feedback and know what other types of research would best help you prepare and plan in your businesses. Weigh in on this and share your questions in the Q&A Forum!