Georgia Offers Perfect Blend for Food Processing Industry
Wednesday, June 29th, 2022
Did you know that just about every one of America’s popular food and drink products are made in Georgia? While the state is famous for its peaches, its comprehensive agriculture/food-processing ecosystem encompasses an astounding variety of produce and products consumed in households across America.
Food processing is Georgia’s top manufacturing sector, fueled by agriculture, the state’s dominant industry. The more than 1,500 food processing manufacturers operating in the state include almost half of the country’s top 100 companies in the industry. Household names like The Coca-Cola Company, Tyson Foods, Starbucks, Wrigley, Frito-Lay, Kraft, and King’s Hawaiian are made in Georgia. The state is headquarters to popular eateries like Chick-fil-A™, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Papa Johns, Waffle House, and many others.
In the past 10 years, 293 food processing companies have opened or expanded operations in Ga, investing more than $4.75 billion. In fact, Georgia’s food processing industry has outgrown the rest of the nation in gross state product, exports, and jobs.
Driving this surge has been not only Georgia’s abundance of signature agricultural products – peaches, peanuts, pecans, broilers, blueberries, and watermelon – but its rich infrastructure. “Farm to table” encompasses a sophisticated network including R&D, farming, transportation, processing, sales, and distribution to ensure delivery of fresh, high-quality products – all areas where Georgia excels.
Food Processing Equipment
One of the latest companies to take advantage of Georgia’s abundant opportunities is Italian pasta sauce maker La Regina Atlantica, which chose Georgia for its first U.S. processing facility. The company will source carrots, peppers, basil, onions, and meats from farmers locally, and its freshly grown tomatoes will be imported from Italy through the Port of Savannah.
“Georgia feels like the perfect place,” said Felice Romano, President of La Regina. “The large agricultural environment in Bacon County…ensures we have access to vast supplies of all the raw materials we need. Then, there’s so much room for expansion…not to mention the close proximity to the third-largest port in the U.S., the Port of Savannah. Last, but not least, the wide offer of dedicated workforce and all the consistent and excellent support the State of Georgia has provided us with has been of vital importance to us.”
Georgia’s geographical location in the center of the U.S. Southeast streamlines logistics for transporting food products to market. Georgia’s ports are a vital ingredient to companies’ success, as is the state’s extensive network of rail and interstate.
Complementing these transportation assets are numerous cold storage facilities, warehouses, and distribution centers throughout the state. The climate-controlled Perishables Center at Hartfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport features on-site distribution and transport capabilities, USDA inspection services, and a fumigation chamber.
Strong supply chain networks let companies optimize food production schedules. Georgia companies also enjoy proximity to raw materials, robust water infrastructure, and high-growth consumer markets.
These advantages attract companies like Kalera, Bowery Farming, and 80 Acres Farms, vertical farm operations that have recently located in Georgia, constructing multi-million-dollar facilities capable of growing leafy greens year round to meet growing consumer demand for local, fresh produce.
The state’s robust transportation network also benefits Freshly, a Nestlé subsidiary that delivers fresh, chef-cooked meals directly to customers’ doors The company recently opened its largest dedicated order-assembly facility to date near Atlanta.Food Processing Facility
“Americans have changed the way they purchase their food, and our state’s logistics network has helped make it seamless for companies to adapt and ramp up their services to meet customers’ evolving needs,” said GDEcD Commissioner Pat Wilson.
Developing the Right Mix
A hub for innovation, Georgia’s universities and agribusiness research organizations are a powerful additive to the state’s resources.
The University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences programs include The Center for Food Safety, which detects, controls and eliminates disease-causing micro-organisms and toxins. Its Food Product Innovation and Commercialization Center assists companies in the efficient and economical development of new products, processes, packaging, and production trials.
The Food Processing Technology Division (FPTD) of the Georgia Tech Research Institute develops innovative technologies for processing efficiency. Georgia’s Center of Innovation AgTech team capitalizes on university research, helping Georgia agribusiness companies compete globally by connecting clients to key resources and emerging technologies.
Recent Rise in Manufacturing
Recent factory expansions testify to the success that food processers are enjoying in Georgia. Ireland-based Kerry Group recently celebrated its largest-ever expansion, investing $125 million to meet growing consumer demand for poultry and seafood.
“This new Georgia facility will be one of the most advanced and modern food manufacturing facilities in the world to support our customers as they produce tasty and nutritious food products, which will be consumed all across the U.S. and Canada,” said Gerry Behan, CEO of Kerry Taste & Nutrition, North America."
Longtime Georgia corporate citizen and snack manufacturer Frito-Lay also announced expanded operations, investing $200 million to add manufacturing lines and a warehouse building to its Houston County campus. And just a year after its grand opening, Nestlé Purina Petcare Company of Switzerland plans a $550 million expansion to its Northeast Georgia facility to meet the growing demand for pet food, adding processing, packaging, and warehouse capacity.
The Georgia Department of Economic Development’s food processing team helps the world’s leading food and beverage companies with everything from site selection to workforce training. To learn more about the food processing industry in Georgia, visit www.Georgia.org/FoodProcessing.