Half-Full Grocery Cart - © sourcesbc.ca

Specialty Foods Growing In Spite Of Food Inflation

The 2022 Specialty Foods report from the U.S. Specialty Foods Association is out. And as we mentioned in our recent look at the chocolate market, sales in the major specialty foods categories are up, in spite of soaring food inflation…

UK high food prices - © 2023 mashed.comFood price inflation is easing only slightly. But the demand for specialty food is up sharply,
in spite of the inability of many folks to afford adequate nutrition for their families.

Well… Human nature strikes again! It appears that folks are drowning their economic sorrows in luxury foods – in spite of their increasing inability to afford proper meals for their families.

Of course, that’s just one interpretation of the new figures, for the full year 2022… Is the shopping cart shown in the photo at the top of the page half full or half empty?

The top 10 specialty food and beverage categories in retail sales:

  1. Chips, pretzels, snacks
  2. Meat, poultry, seafood (Frozen, refrigerated)
  3. Cheese and plant-based cheese
  4. Bread and baked goods
  5. Coffee and hot cocoa, non-RTD
  6. Entrées (Refrigerated)
  7. Chocolate and other confectionery
  8. Water
  9. Desserts (Frozen)
  10. Entrees, lunch, dinner (Frozen)

Top 10 Fastest-Growing Specialty Food and Beverage Categories:

  1. Energy and sports drinks
  2. Tea and coffee, RTD (Refrigerated)
  3. Entrées (Refrigerated)
  4. Breakfast foods (Frozen)
  5. Cream and creamers (Refrigerated, Shelf stable)
  6. Chocolate and other confectionery
  7. Baby and toddler food
  8. Cookies and snack bars
  9. Soda
  10. Appetizers and snacks (Frozen)

Some interesting details…

Entrées (Refrigerated), Chocolate and other confectionery – among the overall Top 10 categories – were also among the Top 10 Fastest-Growing Specialty Food and Beverage Categories in 2022.

Harken, for a moment, back to our commentary on chocolate a few days ago. A philharmonia of causes are uniting to produce record high cocoa prices around the world. It boils down to a shortage. Chocolate prices are already up 14 percent for the first 6 months of this year, over last. Experts confirm chocolate demand is also up sharply, in spite of continuing overall high food price inflation.

As for the frozen entrées… Some folks I know have fallen back on them after being forced to go back to the office to work. They had a lot more time to cook during the COVID Crisis when they were locked down at home. The lockdown is over, but it seems a taste for higher-class foods remains.

Beverages make headlines…

Bottled and flavoured water appeared in the overall Top 10. But Soda / Soft Drinks was climbing up its back, among the fasted growing specialty foods.

Energy drinks – not present in the overall Top 10 – came in at number 1 on the fastest-growing list. It’s unclear whether this reflects more effective marketing by Red Bull and its cohort, or an increase in demand by consumers who feel they need a boost. But the initial hesitation by some folks to try the caffeine-charged beverages, which marked their introduction about a decade ago, seems to have evaporated.

Black coffee – once the staple ‘energy drink’ of cops, reporters and night workers, seems to be in decline. ‘Coffee and hot Cocoa’ came in at a strong number 5 on the Top 10 list. But ‘Cream and Creamers’ showed up at number 5 on the Fastest-Growing list, suggesting folks are gravitating back to ‘cream-and-sugar’ standard. Meanwhile, ‘Iced Tea and Coffee’, which didn’t show up on the overall Top 10 list but topped the Fastest-Growing List.


Items not on the Top 10 list at all are in the majority on the Fastest-Growing list. This observation, alone, seems to underline the contention of food industry observers that many folks experienced permanent changes in their eating habits and food preferences.

Where do you fall on the NO CHANGE – BIG CHANGE continuum?

~ Maggie J.