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, Lipton, MillerCoors, Mondelez, Monogram Food Solutions, Perdue, Sabra, Smithfield, Stone Brewing, 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
- 16 commercial airports serving Virginia, including Washington Dulles International Airport
- 3rd-largest port on the East Coast – The Port of Virginia
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 with over 1.7 million square-feet of cold storage available near port terminals in Hampton Roads, Richmond, and near the Virginia Inland Port in Front Royal. The Port also has reefer capable barges that link deep water terminals to ports in Richmond, Baltimore, and Philadelphia.
Following the successful completion of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Southeast In-Transit Cold Treatment Pilot program, importers of perishables from South American countries can now move their cargo through The Port of Virginia. Fruit imports were previously limited to the Northeast ports for cold treatment and clearance, but access to the Port of Virginia will reduce shipping costs and transit times from South America, increasing the shelf life and lowering costs for consumers.
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 raw material input has made the Hampton Roads region a center for the coffee industry with Keurig Green Mountain, Lipton, Massimo Zanetti, and J.M. Smucker all operating in the area.
Virginia’s agricultural industry is substantial, providing food and beverage manufacturers access to ample agricultural inputs used in their processes. Virginia has 43,225 farms which cover 7.8 million acres, USDA 2017. 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 (No.6), grapes (No.7), and peanuts (No.9) and fresh market tomatoes (No.9). Livestock rankings based on number of head include turkeys (No.7), USDA 2017.
|Rank||Commodity||Cash Receipts ($)|
|2||Cattle and Calves||413,000,000|
|3||Dairy Products, Milk||306,000,000|
|6||All Other Animals+||215,000,000|
Source: USDA, 2017
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, regions within Virginia with a notable abundance of water resources include:
- Lynchburg region: more than 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. Adequate infrastructure is also in place to tap into this natural resource and to process waste water.
- Roanoke region: current demand is only 43% of available daily supply.
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 8th-largest grape-producing state in the country, boasting over 250 wineries in 2019.
The spirits industry has grown 380% 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. Virginia is the East Coast location for Stone Brewing Company and Ballast Point, joining a roster of homegrown companies that include Blue Mountain Brewery, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery, O’Connor Brewing Company, Port City Brewing Company, and Starr Hill Brewery, among others.
Aquaculture & Seafood
Virginia is the 4th largest seafood producer in the U.S., with 344 million pounds landed at Virginia Ports in 2018. Virginia is 1st in the U.S. for hard clam production, and 1st on the East Coast of the U.S. for Eastern oyster production.
Today, watermen harvest both hard clams and oysters from the Commonwealth’s public waterways, with an industry valued at $53.3 million ($38.8 million Hard Clams, $14.5 million Oysters) according to the 2019 Virginia Shellfish Aquaculture Situation and Outlook Report published by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.
Massimo Zanetti, Suffolk
Virginia's food processing industry employs more than 39,000 people. The industry accounts for over 17% 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. Programs at Virginia’s colleges and universities 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) College of Agriculture
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 5th-lowest unionization rate in the U.S. at 5.5%, 2019.
Virginia offers a welcoming business climate for manufacturers and is recognized as a top state for business, coming in at No. 1 by CNBC and No. 4 by Forbes.com in their annual best states for business rankings.
- In 2019, electricity rates are below the U.S. average at 6.24 cents per kilowatt hour vs. 7.01 cents nationally.
- Unemployment insurance taxes are the 5th-lowest in the nation and 43% 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 Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (VDACS) promotes the economic growth and development of Virginia agriculture, provides consumer protection, and encourages environmental stewardship. Headquartered in Richmond, VDACS has several field offices, four regional diagnostic animal health laboratories, and a global network of representatives promoting Virginia products internationally.
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.
The Hershey Company Produces Sweet Success in Virginia
Hershey currently employs more than 1,000 people in the Commonwealth, with the majority located at its Stuarts Draft manufacturing facility. The plant plays a critical role in the company’s growth and the production and delivery of its products to global consumers, so when Hershey began its site selection process, of course Virginia was in the running.Read Case Study
Monogram Foods Gets Results in Virginia
Upon landing additional customer business in 2014, Monogram needed to select one of its existing facilities to add capacity rapidly.Read Case Study
VALET Program Helps Massimo Zanetti Beverage Share Coffee with the World
Massimo Zanetti Beverage, the largest privately held and family owned coffee company in the world, set out in 2012 to navigate new international markets with support from VEDP’s experienced International Trade division.Read Case Study