When questioned about trends, Tanner told BakeryandSnacks that protein is still high on Americans wishlist – with eggs, jerky and meat snacks among the top three speciality food categories with the highest dollar sales growth – however; plant-based, vegetarian and vegan foods are showing exciting growth.
“We’re seeing a lot of growth in vegetable-based snacks, such as kale chips, bean and lentil chips – actually anywhere you can combine your snacks and proteins together is growing,” he told us at Anuga, held in Cologne, Germany, last month.
When it comes to the daily staple, US consumers are moving away from mass-produced breads towards more artisanal offerings.
“People are looking to get quality in their breads,” said Tanner, a demand that is prompting many retail outlets to produce inhouse.
He noted speciality foods represent 14.8% of all food sales in US retail, driven by Millennials who buy speciality foods wherever they shop.
In its State of the Speciality Food Industry 2017 report, the New York-based association reported the sector continues to surge, posting a 15% jump in sales between 2014 and 2016 to $127bn.
Snacks are the third biggest category in speciality foods, with speciality breads – which includes breads and bakery – coming in at the fifth spot.
Top 20 specialty food categories
Credit: Speciality Food Association's The State of the Speciality Food Industry 2017, sourced from Mintel/SPINS/IRI. Does not include private label sales, random weight (PLU) items or sales through Trader Joe's or Whole Foods Market.
Categories aligned with better-for-you options, health and wellness, and freshness are growing the fastest, while organic, non-GMO and local are also getting more attention.
“There are wonderful foods coming out of the States, as there are foods coming out of the UK and Europe,” said Tanners Association stand at Anuga, held in Cologne, Germany, last month.
He also accredited the boost in the country’s innovation to the many food incubators – organizations that aid startups with NPD, financial assistance, kitchen space and so forth.
“These are leading a lot of the growth in the US, too,” he said.
The Speciality Food Association has more than 3,600 members and hosts two annual trade shows - the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York at the end of June and the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco held in January.
The association tracks data and trends, keeps members advised on the latest industry news, and offers a platform for networking opportunities.