Food and beverage products accounted for more than $283 billion in economic activity, according to the latest U.S. Economic Census. The food industry essentially serves 100% of consumers, with only subsistence farmers (those who eat what they grow) outside its reach. Trends shaping the industry include increased localization and transparency, as well as greater specialization and deconsolidation. The anti-GMO movement continues to grow, as does the demand for hormone/antibiotic-free foods. Consumer options also are expanding as subscription services such as AmazonFresh and Blue Apron win more customers, with non-traditional retail expected to reach 5.5% annual growth through 2024.
The food industry comprises many links in a chain, ranging from growers, processors, and manufacturers to packers and wholesale distributors. Typical inventory includes both raw and processed foods such as meat, seafood, dairy products, candy, spices, fruits/vegetables, coffee, frozen foods, and dry/canned foods. Inventory may include smaller, private labels, as well as products branded for a global distributor. Typical machinery and equipment (M&E) includes those used in processing, sorting, and packaging food, as well as freezers/refrigerators, warehouse racks/fixtures, and forklifts. Commodity prices (wheat, soybeans, corn, etc.) are the primary drivers affecting the food industry, followed by weather, food-borne illnesses, and consumer preferences for healthy or dietary-restricted (e.g., gluten-free) foods.