Specialty Foods Have Grown In Popularity Despite Hard Times

If you like jarred, canned, and prepared food products that bring a little luxury to your dinner table, then you might be a fan of what are called "specialty foods." According to the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, these are food products that are cooked or prepared (as opposed to whole ingredients) and packaged for sale, and include items like barbecue sauce, breads, jams and jellies, and candies and desserts.

There's actually a whole trade association devoted to specialty foods, the Specialty Food Association (SFA), and each year, it hosts two Fancy Food Shows to showcase new and innovative specialty food brands: One in winter, and one in summer. At its 2022 summer event, which took place in New York City from June 12 to 14, the SFA featured a whole slew of specialty foods, which a representative told Food Business News are performing well in spite of the pandemic.

The specialty food market is up from 2020

Though you might not expect it, specialty foods have done well throughout the pandemic, according to Food Business News, with the U.S. market valued at $175 billion in 2021. This represents a 7.4% from 2020.

"The specialty food market has prospered amid two difficult years, with our latest research showing specialty continues to grow at a faster rate than all food," Denise Purcell, vice president of content and education at the SFA told the outlet. However, the association expects the market to face some difficulties going forward, due to global factors affecting food markets across the world. "Growth will continue, but at a slower pace ... and will depend on supply chain bandwidth and shifts in challenges like inflation, shipping issues, cost increases, and materials shortages."

This prediction likely comes as no surprise if you've been paying attention to the news over the past few months, as the war in Ukraine has exacerbated supply chain and food shortage issues caused by the pandemic and climate change, among other variables (via Reuters). Still, any improvement over the past few years — especially on something that could be perceived as a luxury — is good news for the industry.