Food is Good Business

Richmond Grid

Richmonders celebrate their love of food. They share photos of meals, write blogs, attend cultural festivals, are in-the-know about pop-up restaurants, delve into food truck courts, explore the latest hard cider and beer microbreweries, and create events like Richmond Restaurant Week and Broad Appetit.

Richmond is becoming known as much for food as it is for history. In fact, the Travel Channel’s Adam Richman visited Greater Richmond recently and showcased both food and history in an episode of “Man v. Food.” He toured the region’s local restaurant scene in historic districts, attacked food challenges, praised culinary creations, and took in a Civil War reenactment.

This September, the Cooking Channel’s “Road Trip with G. Garvin” took viewers on an exploration of unique southern cooking found at the historic Jefferson Hotel, Comfort, and Lavender Fields Herb Garden. Additionally, The New York Times, Garden & Gun, and Traveling Table have all taken note of the fantastic variety of culinary offerings in Greater Richmond.

This burgeoning foodie culture throughout the region is helping propel the growth of Greater Richmond’s food and beverage industry. In addition, the increasing demand for healthy foods in recent years has spurred a greater interest in access to organic and locally grown foods, and extends to international and ethnic foods.

Richmond businesses are making it easier to access these foods from a growing list of farmers markets, specialty grocery stores, co-ops, and newer companies like Relay Foods and The Farm Bus from Farm to Family. Many people are surprised to learn the breadth of food and beverage businesses that exist throughout the region.

WHERE COMPANIES WANT TO BE

From C.F. Sauer’s century-old spices and flavoring operation to the emerging craft beer industry, Greater Richmond is home to a variety of food and beverage manufacturers, as well as packaging, machinery, and equipment producers that support the industry. In fact, there are more than 45 food processing companies that now operate in the region. From Fortune 500 companies like Kraft to family-owned specialty producers like Firoucci Foods and internationally owned businesses like Maruchaun, Richmond-area businesses produce cookies, cakes, sauces, dips, meats, flavorings, noodle soups, and more.

Companies like AMF Bakery, ProSeal, and MWV support the growing food and beverage industry by supplying machinery, processes, and packaging. These businesses are consistently innovating new solutions to help food and beverage producers become more efficient and less wasteful.

“The foodie culture in Richmond is an important asset to attracting these types of businesses. Companies want to be where there is an appreciation for food and beverages as well as for international flavor and innovation,” explains Barry Matherly, senior vice president of business development at Greater Richmond Partnership (GRP), the regional economic development organization that strategically targets businesses to locate or expand in Greater Richmond. As an example, the GRP team will be attending an array of food industry events in the upcoming months, including the Fancy Food show in California and proSweets in Cologne, Germany. “It’s invaluable to have a Richmond-based company there to help sell the region as a good place for business,” says Matherly, who was recently in Munich, Germany, at the iba Summit, an international trade fair for baking.

More than 70,000 people representing 177 countries attended the event. AMF Bakery, who specializes in highspeed bakery equipment, was among the vendors. “It’s an amazing-and to be honest, delicious-event to attend. Being there allowed us to see the trends and innovations being developed. It also allowed us to visit about 100 potential prospects from around the globe in just three days.”

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Whether shipping perishable foods to market or machinery to customers, Greater Richmond’s location at the convergence of I-64, I-95, I-85 and I-295 is a key selling point. It gives businesses access to 50 percent of the U.S. population within a day’s drive. Location, for example, is critical for Ashland-based Daystar Desserts, a thriving maker and distributor of cheesecakes that ships to grocery stores, hotels, and restaurants. The company has expanded delivery operations from six states to 38 states in just over a three-year period and tripled its workforce.

Location, along with workforce, also played a critical role when Sabra Dipping Company selected Greater Richmond to build the nation’s largest hummus factory.

“We looked in a lot of other places and at the end of the day we understood that the best place for us to take our dream and our vision, to make it come true, is here in Greater Richmond,” says Ronen Zohar, Sabra’s CEO.

Sabra has invested $60 million since locating in Chesterfield County in 2008 and continues to expand. They recently announced an additional $28 million investment including a research and development facility and two new manufacturing lines. They plan to create an estimated 90 new jobs over the next few years.

“The best feature about targeting the food and beverage industry is that even in a down economy we still need to eat,” says Greg Wingfield, GRP’s president and CEO. “This makes this industry almost recession-proof.” Interesting Facts

  •     Kraft operates the second largest bakery in the U.S. in Henrico County.
  •     Sabra Dipping Company’s plant in Chesterfield is the largest hummus factory in the U.S.
  •     The Travel Channel’s Adam Richman recently visited Greater Richmond to showcase both food and history in an episode of “Man v. Food.”
  •     The Cooking Channel’s “Road Trip with G. Garvin” recently took viewers on an exploration of unique southern cooking found at the historic Jefferson Hotel, Comfort, and Lavender Fields Herb Garden.
  •     The New York Times, Garden & Gun, and Traveling Table have all taken note of the variety of culinary offerings in Greater Richmond.
     

FOOD AND BEVERAGE COMPANIES IN GREATER RICHMOND

  •         C.F. Sauer Co. Inc. Spices, Extracts & Seasonings
  •         Fiorucci Foods Inc. Italian Meats
  •         Kraft Foods Cookies and Crackers
  •         Legend Brewing Co. Beer
  •         Hardywood Beer
  •         Blue Bee Cider Hard Cider
  •         Maruchan Virginia Inc. Noodles
  •         Sabra Dipping Company Hummus, Dips & Salads
  •         San-J International Inc. Asian Cooking Sauces & Dressings
  •         Tyson Foods Inc. Poultry
  •         Ukrop’s Homestyle Foods Prepared Foods and Baked Goods
  •         Daystar Desserts Cheesecakes and Desserts

“World’s Best Cheesecake”

Used by permission of Grid magazine