Virginia’s central East Coast location, exceptional logistics, infrastructure, access to agricultural inputs, and productive workforce make Virginia a leader in the booming food and beverage industry. As customer demand calls for fresher products, Virginia’s close proximity to major population centers puts companies in the right place to reach their customers.
Well-known food and beverage products are made daily throughout Virginia. Companies making products in Virginia include household names like Gatorade, Hershey, Sabra, Stone Brewing, Lipton, Mondelez, Monogram Food Solutions, Perdue, Smithfield, MillerCoors, and many more.
The Commonwealth’s strong transportation infrastructure ensures optimal access to major east/west and north/south interstate highways and rail lines, regional and international airports, and seaports.
Virginia’s exceptional logistics include:
- Six interstate highways
- Two Class 1 railroads – CSX and Norfolk Southern
- 14 commercial airports serving Virginia, including Washington Dulles International Airport
- 3rd-largest port on the East Coast – The Port of Virginia
Virginia’s agricultural industry is substantial, providing food and beverage manufacturers access to ample agricultural inputs used in their processes. Virginia has 44,800 farms which cover 8.1 million acres. Virginia’s agricultural production is one of the most diverse in the nation. Many Virginia commodities and products rank in the top 10 among all U.S. states. These include apples, grapes, and peanuts (No.8) and fresh market tomatoes (No.9). Livestock rankings based on number of head include turkeys (No. 6) and broilers (No. 10).
|Rank||Commodity||Cash Receipts ($)|
|5||Greenhouse/Nursery (Misc. Crops)||294,000,000|
|8||All Other Animals+||173,000,000|
Source: 2016 USDA NASS and ERS data figures rounded to the nearest million dollars.
The Port of Virginia
The Port of Virginia is the 3rd-largest port on the East Coast and is currently undergoing major expansion projects at its terminals to expand its container capacity by 40%. The Port is a key resource to food and beverage companies engaged in import or export of raw materials or products. There are cold storage warehouses available near port terminals in Hampton Roads, Richmond, and near the Virginia Inland Port in Front Royal.
The Port’s recent Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) designation allows owners of exchange-graded coffee imports arriving at The Port of Virginia and stored in local, exchange-licensed warehouses to be delivered against the coffee “C” futures contract. This makes a Virginia location attractive to companies that need access to imported coffee. Close proximity to the raw material input has made the Hampton Roads region a center for the coffee industry with Keurig Green Mountain, Massimo Zanetti, Lipton, Peet's, and JM Smuckers all operating in the area.
According to the Virginia Water Resources Plan published by the Department of Environmental Quality, Virginia is considered to be a “water rich” state. During years with normal to high precipitation, Virginia’s net water withdrawal from surface water in non-tidal streams is less than 5% of the median daily streamflow.
For companies with processes that require access to water, there are regions within Virginia that have noted a particular abundance of water resources, including:
- Lynchburg region: 25 million gallons per day excess water capacity
- New River Valley region: average daily flow of 1.7-billion gallons and of very reliable, clean water from the New River. There is also adequate infrastructure in place to tap into this natural resource and to process waste water
- Roanoke Region: current demand is only 43% of available daily supply
- Southern Virginia: an abundance of water and sewer and excess capacities throughout the region
- Virginia’s Gateway Region: ample water supply and wastewater treatment capacity for food and beverage production
Virginia's Craft and Specialty Beverage Industries are Growing Rapidly
Virginia’s desirable status as a tourism destination, as well as strategic access to markets, makes Virginia a key location for experience-based producers in the wine, sprits, and craft beer industries. Virginia’s unique and varied terroir, combined with history and craftsmanship and supported by strong business development and marketing support, has created a critical mass of craft beverage companies.
Virginia’s growing wine industry has made the Commonwealth the 5th-largest grape-producing state in the country, boasting over 300 wineries.
The spirits industry has grown 433% since 2012, with nearly 60 licensed distilleries in the Commonwealth today.
In the last decade, the Virginia craft beer scene has exploded. Virginia is home to more than 250 licensed breweries, up from 44 in 2011. Virginia is the East Coast location for Stone Brewing Company and Ballast Point, joining a roster of homegrown companies that include Starr Hill Brewery, Blue Mountain Brewery, O’Connor Brewing Company, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, and Port City Brewing Company, among others.
Aquaculture & Seafood
Virginia is the nation’s 3rd-largest seafood producer and the largest on the Atlantic coast, and ranks 10th nationally in Aquaculture production. Virginia is the country's largest grower of littlneck clams and the East Coast's largest producer of half-shell oysters. The world’s largest indoor tilapia production facility also calls Virginia home
Virginia’s seafood industry is varied, with watermen harvesting more than 50 commercially valuable species from 620,000 acres of water. The variety of seafood from Virginia’s waters include sea scallops, blue crabs, striped bass, summer flounder, croaker, spot, clams, and oysters. Virginia is known as the Oyster Capital of the East Coast, with over 40 million oysters sold in 2016. The Newport News Seafood Industrial Park (SIP) is one of the nation’s premier seafood harbors and in the past decade, the SIP has averaged in the top 10 nationally for value of seafood landed.
Massimo Zanetti, Suffolk
Virginia's food processing industry employs more than 37,000 people. The industry accounts for over 16% of Virginia's total manufacturing employment, and is the 2nd- largest manufacturing sector in the Commonwealth.
Wanchese Fish Company, Suffolk
Virginia's renowned higher education system feeds a pipeline of talent, ensuring businesses a steady stream of skilled new graduates into the workforce. There are programs at Virginia’s colleges and universities with a focus on training and research for food and beverage production.
Virginia Tech - Department of Food Science & Technology
The department’s focus areas include food microbiology and safety, food processing and packaging, food chemistry, sensory analysis, food quality, and fermented foods and beverages.
Facilities and research areas include the Food Innovations Program, pilot plants, laboratories, support facilities, and a sensory/flavor testing suite. As a resource for food companies that are start-ups or evaluating new equipment, processes, and product lines, the pilot plants feature flexible, high-bay equipment areas for use in the development of scale-up operations and process/packaging engineering systems.
Virginia State University (VSU)
VSU’s College of Agriculture has a number of resources that are useful to the industry. The Food Processing and Engineering Lab focuses on topics related to engineering for food nutrition, quality, and safety, and the application of nanotechnology in foods.
The Food Safety and Microbiology Laboratory focuses on improving the safety and quality of our country’s food supply through research that examines microbial ecology and routes of contamination.
The Agricultural Research Station uses cutting-edge scientific techniques and state-of-the-art facilities to find solutions to diverse issues in agriculture and food production. One recent application has been to partner with Sabra Dipping Company, which operates the largest hummus manufacturing facility in the world in Chesterfield County, to prove the feasibility of growing chickpeas that are ideally suited to Virginia’s climate.
Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS)
VIMS is currently among the largest marine research and education centers in the United States. VIMS researchers help guide and steer aquaculture toward maximum healthy yields and minimal environmental impact. Field and laboratory research at VIMS is key to the recent surge in oyster aquaculture in Virginia. Researchers also study all aspects of the blue crab, with a focus on conservation and a sustainable fishery.
Randy Smith Former VP, Stuarts Draft Operations, McKee Foods
The business climate in the Commonwealth is very favorable, and we have found Stuarts Draft to be geographically well-positioned to serve the markets for our brands.
Virginia is consistently ranked as a top location for business, and boasts a stable, pro-business climate. Virginia is a right-to-work state with the 9th-lowest unionization rate in the U.S. at 5.9%.
Virginia offers a welcoming business climate for manufacturers and is recognized as a top state for business, coming in at No. 4 by CNBC and No. 5 by Forbes.com in their annual best states for business rankings.
- Electricity rates are below the U.S. average at 6.26 cents per kilowatt hour vs. 6.88 cents nationally
- Unemployment insurance taxes are the 7th-lowest in the nation and 53% lower than the national average
- Average workers' compensation costs among are the nation’s lowest
- Effective tax rates for labor-intensive manufacturing rank No. 2 according to the 2015 Location Matters Study by the Tax Foundation
- Corporate income tax rate of 6%, not increased since 1972, demonstrates the Commonwealth’s stability for business
The Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund (AFID) is a discretionary incentive designed to grow Virginia’s agriculture and forestry industries. AFID grants are made to localities at the discretion of the Governor with the expectation that the grant will be critical to the success of a project that will result in the creation of new jobs and investment from companies that add value to Virginia-grown agriculture and forestry products.