By Jason Tolliver, Head of Industrial Research, Americas
Food manufacturing in the United States has witnessed profound changes in the last decade. As a leader in a wide range of real estate and logistics services to the food and beverage community, Cushman & Wakefield is embarking upon a multi-faceted journey that will explore both the challenges and solutions to this ever-changing sector. Our journey will explore key topics impacting how we grow, process and consume food, including:
- Food Safety and Regulations
- Plant Efficiency
- Cold Storage
- The Young and the Old
The economic impact and geographical diversity of food manufacturing is broad. Changes to the food continuum impact employment, processing plant site location, distribution, and ultimately what we put on our tables. Growth and expansion has been the watchword, with 2015 witnessing the greatest number of food manufacturing projects in the past five years. We expect this trend to continue, and for the 2016 tally of food manufacturing projects to surpass 2015.
As noted, our journey will include a focus on food safety – a key challenge for an industry with longer supply chains and more complex food sourcing. We have the highest level of safety standards and inspection regimes in our history, yet food poisoning remains a constant reminder of how complex the system is. As we saw with Chipotle, a chain closely associated with “food with integrity,” an outbreak of any duration shakes consumer confidence and can cause damage to the brand.
Consumers are demanding less processing to food, so plants are changing both their footprint (“go small to go large”) and choosing locations closer to the source. Farm-to-table is less of an option and more of a requirement for meeting production and sales goals. Food waste has also emerged as a key consumer issue, with celebrity chefs such as Rick Bayless encouraging composting and mainstream publications such as National Geographic addressing the waste challenge.
We are also seeing growth in cold storage facilities as well as an increased demand for transportation infrastructure capable of handling temperature-sensitive products. Another area that is generating interest is refrigeration compliance. Companies are taking an active role in developing a refrigeration strategy, driven in part by new OSHA mandates.
And lastly, demographics matter. Millennials have very specific food preferences. As the largest cohort of consumer, Generation Yum (as noted by author Eve Turow) has a significant influence on contemporary food manufacturing. The demand for fresh, locally sourced (organic when possible) meat, fruit and vegetables is a 40-year trend that has gained tremendous steam in the past decade. The success of Michael Pollan’s landmark 2006 book The Omnivore’s Dilemma has led to a cottage industry in food-related publishing and has had a tremendous impact on food manufacturing.
So join us on this journey as we explore what’s next.
Jason is a commercial real estate economist and attorney with over two decades of experience in regional, national, and international economic development, law, and economic analysis. As Head of Industrial Research for the Americas, Jason advises Cushman & Wakefiled clients on economic and legal issues affecting business and commercial real estate and shares his insight into emerging and transformative industry trends.