Chamber study: The food and beverage industry is a Memphis ‘sweet spot’

Food and beverage manufacturing contributed $2.6 billion to the Mid-South economy in 2022, and the industry is expected to grow another 11% within five years.

That’s according to the Greater Memphis Chamber’s 2023 Food and Beverage Industry Report created by the Greater Memphis Economic Research Group, or GMERG (pronounced G-merge).

The Memphis area employs more than 4,000 food and beverage distribution professionals.

The chamber found that because Memphis is one of the top logistics hubs in the U.S. the Mid-South is able to play a key role in the industry on a national scale.

“So much of what Americans put on their dinner table every night passes through Memphis in some form, whether that’s as a raw commodity moving up and down the river or as a packaged-food product manufactured and shipped out,” said Gwyn Fisher, the Chamber’s chief economic development officer.

In 2022 alone, 29 billion pounds of food materials moved through the Memphis metropolitan area.

“When you think about just the sheer volume of food that moves through our area, it’s clear that we really are critical to the national food supply chain,” Fisher said.

In the food and beverage service sector, the report found 46,000 regional employees evenly distributed between limited-service restaurants and full-service restaurants. Employment in this sector is expected to grow another 4% in the next five years.

Memphis is also one of the top 10 major metros for confectionery manufacturing professionals in the U.S.

“It really is our sweet spot,” Fisher said. “We have the highest concentration of those kinds of manufacturing job in the nation. And that’s everything from Dinstuhl’s, which is the oldest food manufacturer in our region, to the fact that Tootsie Rolls are made right up the road in Covington.”

Overall, there are 13 confectionery operations that employ more than 1,000 residents locally. These operations are expected to grow another 19% within the next five years.

“In this sector, there’s also that entrepreneurial spirit that continues to make us so unique with companies like Phillip Ashley Chocolates becoming a national brand,” Fisher said.

This report, and other reports from GMERG, are available here.

“We retain this is yet another area where, again, diversity is our superpower,” Fisher said. “We have the most diverse food manufacturing workforce in the country, and so many of the name brands that we find in all of our pantries and cabinets are made right here in the Digital Delta.”

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