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A specialty food is a food that is typically considered as a "unique and high-value food item made in small quantities from high-quality ingredients".[1] Consumers typically pay higher prices for specialty foods, and may perceive them as having various benefits[1] compared to non-specialty foods.

Compared to staple foods, specialty foods may have higher prices due to more expensive ingredients and labor.[2] Some food stores specialize in or predominantly purvey specialty foods.[3][4] Several organizations exist that promote specialty foods and its purveyors.


There is no standard definition for "specialty food".[1]

Specialty foods

Caviar has been described as a specialty food

Foods that have been described as specialty foods include:

Some specialty foods may be ethnic specialties.[22]

Foods that have been described as specialty foods as per not precisely corresponding to other food categories include:

Umeboshi being dried in the sun

By country


In China, specialty foods have been described as having "important roles in the food culture..."[24] Some Chinese recipes may be footnoted with a statement that ingredients may only be available in specialty food stores and Chinese markets.[25]

United States

In the United States, specialty foods and their purveyors are regulated by both federal and state agencies.[26]

The Specialty Food Association's annual "State of the Specialty Food Industry 2014" report stated that in 2013 in the U.S., specialty foods and beverages sales totaled $88.3 billion, accounted for an increase of 18.4% since 2011, and was a record high for the fourth consecutive year.[27][28] The report also stated that around 80% of specialty food sales occur at the retail level, and that seven out of ten specialty food retailers reported that the word "local" had the most importance as a product claim.[27]

Bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturers

As of March 2015 in the United States, the number of bean-to-bar chocolate manufacturers (companies that process cocoa beans into a product in-house, rather than melting chocolate from another manufacturer) had increased to at least 60.[29] The Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA) stated that this represented "a tenfold increase in the past decade that's outpacing growth in Europe".[29][30] In April 2020, the FCIA launched the campaign website Make Mine Fine in order to support small scale farmers who rely on cocoa for their livelihoods in tropical countries and highlight the work of chocolate manufacturers who buy their beans.


In 2012 in the United States, the specialty foods market sector was experiencing significant growth, with its annual growth rate at 8–10%.[1] In 2010, specialty foods comprised 13.1% of total retail food sales and totaled $55.9 billion in sales.[1]

In 2010 in Oakland, California, it was reported that abandoned industrial spaces previously occupied by large food producers were being inhabited by small specialty food companies.[31]

In 1998, the U.S. state of California had the second-highest amount of specialty and gourmet foods of all U.S. states.[32] This has been attributed as possible due a diverse variety of unique fruits and vegetables that can be grown in Southern California.[32] Another possibility for the high quantity and diversity of specialty foods in California is that food innovations often occur in the state, as has occurred in other sectors such as health food and organic produce.[32]

In 1991, the Los Angeles Times reported that city officials in Monterey Park, Los Angeles County, California, suspected that significant numbers of non-residents were visiting the city to shop at Asian markets there to obtain specialty foods.[33]


In terms of food-place association perceptions, Vermont has been described as being associated with "homemade-style specialty items", along with maple syrup.[32]

Companies and stores

Some companies, grocery stores and food stores specialize in or predominantly purvey specialty foods. Some of these companies include:


United States

National Association for the Specialty Food Trade

Also known as the Specialty Food Association, it is a non-profit trade association founded in 1952 in New York that has over 3,000 members.[40] The organization also oversees its Specialty Food Foundation, a foundation that "works to reduce hunger and increase food recovery efforts via grantmaking, education and industry events".[41]




New York

In New York's Finger Lakes region, the Worker Ownership Resource Center established the Specialty Food Network.[46] The network was established to "help clients start or expand small food businesses" and to promote the businesses and products of its members.[46] Establishment of the network was enabled in part with a grant from the John Merck Fund.[46] In 1998, the network had 46 members.[46]

South Carolina


See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Zhao 2012, p. vii
  2. ^ Hall, S. (2005). From Kitchen to Market: Selling Your Gourmet Food Specialty. From Kitchen to Market: Selling Your Gourmet Food Specialty Series. Kaplan Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7931-9997-6.
  3. ^ Wemischner, R.; Karp, K. (1997). Gourmet to go: a guide to opening and operating a speciality food store. John Wiley. ISBN 978-0-471-13939-3.
  4. ^ Pegler, M.M. (1999). Specialty Food Store Design. Visual Reference Publications. ISBN 978-0-934590-77-8.
  5. ^ Georges Desrues "Eine Lange Nacht am Meer", In: Triest - Servus Magazin (2020), p 73.
  6. ^ Hartman, Lauren R. (29 June 2015). Artisanal Foods Increase in Popularity. Food Procescsing.
  7. ^ Pipkin, Whitney. (11 April 2016). Maybe this is how ‘artisanal’ foods can finally spread the wealth. Food. Washington Post.
  8. ^ Zhao 2012, p. 298.
  9. ^ Prisco, Joanna (October 2, 2013). "Americans Hungry for Funky, Innovative Cheeses". ABC News. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  10. ^ Ferdman, Roberto A. (February 24, 2015). "It's true: Americans like to drink bad coffee". Washington Post. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  11. ^ Szogyi, Alex, ed. (1997). Chocolate: Food of the Gods. Issue 14 of Contributions in intercultural and comparative studies (ISSN 0147-1031). Greenwood Press. p. 137. ISBN 978-0-313-30506-1.
  12. ^ "Demand for foie gras soaring in California after ban lifted". Fox News. January 21, 2015. Retrieved March 3, 2015.
  13. ^ Moore, Derek (January 8, 2015). "Courts overturn foie gras ban". Petaluma Argus Courier. Retrieved March 3, 2015.
  14. ^ Holusha, John (July 11, 1986). "Laboratory Morels 'Bloom'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  15. ^ Small, E.; Canada, National Research Council (2009). Top 100 Food Plants. NRC Research Press. p. 346. ISBN 978-0-660-19858-3. Quote: " In Italy, it (mostarda) is sold by the barrel, while in other Western countries mostarda is generally marketed as a gourmet item in specialty food stores"
  16. ^ McGrath, R.G.; MacMillan, I.C. (2000). The Entrepreneurial Mindset: Strategies for Continuously Creating Opportunity in an Age of Uncertainty. Working paper series (Snider Entrepreneurial Center). Harvard Business School Press. p. 213. ISBN 978-0-87584-834-1.
  17. ^ Harris, Richard (June 10, 2013). "How To Clean Up Fish Farms And Raise More Seafood At The Same Time". NPR. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  18. ^ Owyang, S. (2010). Frommer's Shanghai. Frommer's Complete Guides. Wiley. p. 216. ISBN 978-0-470-43794-0.
  19. ^ a b Farnham, Alan (March 25, 2014). "Celebrity Chefs Buying Truffles to Tune of $30K a Day". ABC News. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  20. ^ Vasarri, Chiara (October 21, 2014). "Truffle Boom Brings La Dolce Vita Amid Italy Economic Slump". Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  21. ^ Tolson, Shaun (November 6, 2014). "The Truth About Truffle Oil". Robb Report. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  22. ^ Halter, M. (2007). Shopping for Identity: The Marketing of Ethnicity. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. p. 110. ISBN 978-0-307-42770-0.
  23. ^ a b c d e f Bowden 2007, p. 222.
  24. ^ Newman, J.M. (2004). Food Culture in China. Food culture around the world. Greenwood Press. p. xii. ISBN 978-0-313-32581-6.
  25. ^ Dahlen, M. (2010). A Cook's Guide to Chinese Vegetables. askmar publishing. ISBN 978-1-935842-03-3.
  26. ^ "Resources". Northeast Center for Food Entrepreneurship, Cornell University. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  27. ^ a b "The State of the Specialty Food Industry 2014". Specialty Food Association. October 27, 2014. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  28. ^ "Frozen Dessert Sales Up 28% in US Specialty Food Market". Frozen Foods Biz. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  29. ^ a b Pierson, David (February 28, 2015). "Artisanal, hand-crafted chocolate is a growing niche". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  30. ^ "Niche Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Production Shows Rapid Growth". Specialty Food Association. March 2, 2015. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  31. ^ Jou, Diana (December 13, 2010). "Small specialty food companies moving into Oakland's factory spaces". Oakland North. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  32. ^ a b c d Shortridge, B.G.; Shortridge, J.R. (1998). The Taste of American Place: A Reader on Regional and Ethnic Foods. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-8476-8507-3.
  33. ^ Hoder, Randye (June 6, 1991). "A Passion for Asian Foods : Markets: City officials suspect that many non-residents flock to Monterey Park for its specialty food stores. One developer is banking on it". Los Angeles Times Articles. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  34. ^ "Boulder Specialty closes IPO". Denver Business Journal. December 22, 2005. Retrieved March 1, 2015.
  35. ^ "Centennial Specialty Foods loses nearly 800K". Denver Business Journal. March 31, 2005. Retrieved March 1, 2015.
  36. ^ "Centennial Specialty being delisted". Denver Business Journal. October 25, 2005. Retrieved March 1, 2015.
  37. ^ a b "Innovative Food Holdings Launches Retail-Focused Specialty and Organic Food Offering, Acquires Organic Food Brokers, LLC". PR Newswire. October 1, 2014. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  38. ^ admin. "The Seven Elements | Indigenous permaculture from peruvian cloud forest". The7elements. Retrieved 2020-08-27.
  39. ^ Fromartz, S. (2007). Organic, Inc.: Natural Foods and How They Grew. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0-547-41600-7.
  40. ^ "Who we are". Specialty Food Association. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  41. ^ "Specialty Food Foundation Announces Grants to 14 Anti-Hunger Programs". Food Shift. December 17, 2014. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  42. ^ "Connecticut Food Association". Connecticut Food Association. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  43. ^ "Connecticut Specialty Food Association". Connecticut Specialty Food Association. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  44. ^ "Massachusetts Specialty Foods Association". Massachusetts Specialty Foods Association. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  45. ^ "Traverse Bay Specialty Foods". Traverse Bay Specialty Foods. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  46. ^ a b c d Markley, K.; Hilchey, D.; Program, Cornell Farming Alternatives (1998). Adding Value for Sustainability: A Guidebook for Cooperative Extension Agents and Other Agricultural Professionals. Community agriculture development series. Farming Alternatives Program. pp. 55–58. ISBN 978-0-7881-8993-7.
  47. ^ "South Carolina Specialty Food Association". South Carolina Specialty Food Association. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  48. ^ "Vermont Specialty Food Association". Vermont Specialty Food Association. Retrieved 2 March 2015.


Further reading