Create a free account to continue

Consumer Trends: Top Specialty Foods for the Holidays

America's appetite for specialty foods hit a record high last year. The Specialty Food Association has released the results of a survey that reveal the top product categories, flavors and ingredients available for gift-giving this holiday season.

NEW YORK (PRNewswire) โ€” America's appetite for specialty foods hit a record high last year, with consumers spending $86 billion on everything from artisanal chocolates and cheese to oils and charcuterie. To help food enthusiasts navigate the wealth of food-gift choices available this holiday season, the Specialty Food Association today released the results of a survey that reveal the top product categories, flavors and ingredients. 

Hottest Product Categories

Responses from 250 specialty food producers and retailers showed that the three hottest holiday product categories are perennial favorites: chocolate (42 percent), baked goods (36 percent) and alcoholic beverages (25 percent).  

Number 4 on the list is a relative newcomer: gluten-free foods, which were named the "hottest" specialty food category by 20 percent of respondents.

"Specialty food producers bring craft and care to the foods they create every day and are taking it up a notch for the holidays," said Denise Purcell, editor of Specialty Food Media. "Whether a traditional favorite like chocolate or a new twist on a classic like gluten-free peppermint cookies, you can tell by the taste, appearance and packaging that you're giving the gift of a special food experience."

Top Holiday Flavor and Ingredient Trends

According to the survey, specialty food professionals predict that consumers will gravitate to a mix of traditional and non-traditional flavors and ingredients this season. The top traditional flavors include:

  • Chocolate (42 percent)
  • Pumpkin (29 percent)
  • Ginger (23 percent)
  • Peppermint (20 percent)

The top non-traditional flavors and ingredients include:

  • Sea Salt (23 percent)
  • Bacon (20 percent)
  • Bourbon/Whiskey (12 percent)
  • Truffles (11 percent)

The Insider's Specialty Food Gift List

Want to give like a pro this season? The Specialty Food Association asked industry insiders what they plan to give โ€“ and most want to receive โ€“ this holiday season.

  • To friends, industry insiders said they most likely would give cheese (72 percent), alcohol (69 percent), chocolate (63 percent) and jams/jellies/preserves/honey (60 percent)
  • For family members, they are most likely to give baked goods (72 percent) and olive oil (67 percent)

For other gift recipients, certain trends emerged:

  • Teachers will receive a lot of chocolate โ€“ 40 percent of chocolate-givers plan to give it to a teacher
  • Many specialty food professionals will give jams, jellies, preserves and honey this year: 42 percent say they'll give these items to a party host, 44 percent to customers/clients, and 40 percent to acquaintances
  • Condiments are a hot item for customers/clients. Of those planning to give condiments, 45 percent are giving it to a customer/client

What do specialty food professionals want for the holidays? Alcoholic beverages (30 percent), chocolate (26 percent) and baked goods (23 percent) are popular choices, and so are these:

  • Cheese
  • Olive Oil
  • Charcuterie
  • Coffee

About the Survey

Information Specialists Group, Inc. conducted the survey on behalf of the Specialty Food Association, among a representative sample of 250 specialty food professionals. The online survey occurred Nov. 4 to 15, 2013.

The specialty food professionals included 139 food artisans and entrepreneurs who are members of the Association and 111 specialty food buyers and retailers.

About Specialty Food Association
The Specialty Food Association is a not-for-profit trade association for food artisans, importers and entrepreneurs established in 1952 in New York to foster commerce and interest in the specialty food industry. Today there are more than 3,000 members in the U.S. and abroad. The Specialty Food Association operates the Summer and Winter Fancy Food Shows and presents the sofiโ„ข Awards honoring excellence in specialty food. For more information on the association, go to

More in Operations