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Retail Specialty Cheese Sales Hit $4 Billion In 2013; Sales Grew 16.1% Between 2011, 2013

US sales of specialty foods and beverages reached $88.3 billion last year, a record high for the fourth year in a row and a jump of 18.4 percent since 2011, according to new research from the Specialty Food Association (SFA).

Cheese dominates specialty food sales at retail, with $4 billion in sales in 2013, the SFA reported. Specialty cheese sales grew 16.1% between 2011 and 2013.

“US consumers are more sophisticated and discerning about their food choices than ever before,” said Ron Tanner, vice president of philanthropy, government and industry relations for the SFA. “Retailers and restaurants of all kinds are responding by offering more specialty foods crafted by makers of artisanal cheeses, innovative vinegars, and health-oriented snacks.”

After cheese, the largest specialty food and beverage segments are: frozen and refrigerated meats, poultry and seafood; chips, pretzels and snacks; coffee, coffee substitutes, and cocoa; and yogurt and kefir, 2013 sales of which totaled $1.96 billion, up 20.4 percent from 2011.

The fastest-growing specialty food segments, as measured by dollar sales, are nut and seed butters, eggs, and frozen desserts, 2013 sales of which totaled $1.343 billion, up 28.2 percent from 2011.

The frozen dessert segment was the only segment among the five fastest-growing segments to top
$1 billion in sales last year, according to SFA figures

Sales of specialty milk products last year totaled $1.055 billion, up 11.4 percent from 2011. Sales of other specialty dairy and alternatives in 2013 totaled $301 million, up 10.1 percent since 2011.

Specialty foods accounted for 10.4 percent of the total retail food market in 2013, although several of the 59 segments included in the SFA’s report boast higher penetration. The top segment last year: specialty refrigerated salsas and dips represented 49.8 percent of all sales in that category.

For the dairy-related product segments, specialty varieties had