Editor's Plate: 2022 Was a Year of Financial Extremes for Food and Beverage Companies

Aug. 18, 2023
Some processors did extraordinarily well and some could not navigate the rough seas, according to the data in our just-published 2023 Top 100 list and report.

To see the interactive table of all 100 companies, click here. To read the cover story on the Top 100, click here.

If there was any question that 2022 was a year of extreme good and bad fortunes, this month’s Top 100© report should erase all doubt.

Even for those who had good fortune, smooth sailing wasn’t guaranteed through 2022. First it was supply chain issues, then inflation. Food & beverage processors reacted to rising input costs with price increases, which both pumped up their dollar sales and (along with some other factors) depressed their earnings.

Our website and daily newsletterwas littered with “Dollar Sales Up, Volume Down” headlines, appliedto several food processors’ quarterly earnings reports over the past year. But this year’s Top 100 report paints the broadest picture and quantitatively assesses the damage to profitability.

We publish a Top 100 list every year and have been doing it for longer than I’ve been here (and that’s more than 20 years). But this year, there really are some truly remarkable findings buried among all that data. Generally, more companies than ever before did really, really well; and more companies than ever did badly. Ergo, our Rich Man/Poor Man cover. (Anybody remember that novel or the TV miniseries from the 1970s?).

As the story says (the story is here, the big table is here), 20 companies had sales increases of a billion dollars or more; I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in our Top 100 lists. Not last August, when our headline was “A Year of Meat and Soft Drinks,” which credited the post-Covid resumption of dining out and live events for the big sales increases seen by processors heavily invested in those categories. JBS USA had the biggest increase (+$5.8 billion) from the prior year, followed by PepsiCo. Their peers did well, too.

Not the year before (August 2021) when we called Covid a “shot in the arm” for the few food & beverage processors that did well during the pandemic (although 2020 sales for the whole group were up an anemic 1.7%). Not in our August 2020 report, when we proclaimed “Big Food Is Back” amid increases for those companies supplying pantry staples during the height of the pandemic.

20 companies with billion-dollar sales increases is quite a milestone. Unfortunately, so is the finding that nine processors lost money in 2022; I don’t think we’ve seen that before either.

For this year, which is based mostly on 2022 financials, 56 processors increased their sales by at least 5%, only six saw sales decreases of at least 5%. That was the good news. Net income was more telling: The 19 that saw profit increases was the second smallest number in at least the past seven years; the 28 that saw an erosion of profit was the highest in that time.

As the creator and keeper of these lists, I like to keep score from year to year. Here, in simple scorecard form, are comparisons for some of the past reports (keep in mind each of these August reports is based mostly on the previous calendar year):

I also like to acknowledge some comings and goings. Despite the low interest rates, 2022 was not a year for blockbuster acquisitions, the only ones affecting our list were Sanderson Farms being merged into Wayne Farms to form the new No. 3 poultry supplier Wayne-Sanderson Farms, and ice cream-maker Wells Enterprises being acquired by Italy’s Ferrero Group.

We do welcome to our list a few companies we’ve overlooked for too long: Lamb Weston Holdings, Case Foods and John Soules Foods. Monogram Foods and Glanbia’s consumer division return after just missing the Top 100 last year. Next year, it will be interesting to see where the two new Kellogg spinoffs – WK Kellogg Co and Kellanova – fall on that list.

But that’s all rear-view mirror stuff. You have five months to make 2023 a year of improvement in both sales and profitability, to get yourselves positioned better for next year’s Top 100.

About the Author

Dave Fusaro | Editor in Chief

Dave Fusaro has served as editor in chief of Food Processing magazine since 2003. Dave has 30 years experience in food & beverage industry journalism and has won several national ASBPE writing awards for his Food Processing stories. Dave has been interviewed on CNN, quoted in national newspapers and he authored a 200-page market research report on the milk industry. Formerly an award-winning newspaper reporter who specialized in business writing, he holds a BA in journalism from Marquette University. Prior to joining Food Processing, Dave was Editor-In-Chief of Dairy Foods and was Managing Editor of Prepared Foods.

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