To see the interactive table of all 100 companies, click here. To read Dave Fusaro's Editor's Page for his analysis, click here.
The past year has been challenging (aren’t they all?) for the food & beverage industry, but it has produced some unique results — the likes of which haven’t been seen for years, if ever. For example, 2022 was the first time in memory that bottom-line net income decreased for the aggregate Top 100© food & beverage companies, and that’s despite an 11.5% sales increase for the whole group.
Two other remarkable developments from 2022 show up in the Top 100: 20 companies reported sales increases of a billion dollars or more, a high-water mark we don’t believe we’ve ever seen; and nine processors lost money in 2022 — unfortunately, we have seen that before.
It seems we’ve used the headline “Sales Up, Volume Down” several times in recent months, but this is the first time we can clearly assess the damage to profitability.
Two things seemed to weigh heavily on food & beverage profits in 2022: inflation, which pumped up dollar sales but depressed volume, and earlier, often “transformative,” acquisitions that weren’t working out.
Last year in this report — which was based mostly on 2021 financial reporting — not one of the top 33 companies reported a net loss. This year there are two: Molson Coors and J.M. Smucker. Expanding the lens to all 100 companies, only four had losses in 2021; this year, from 2022 financial reports, there are nine (the others are Constellation Brands, Maple Leaf Foods, TreeHouse Foods, B&G Foods, Utz Brands, Monogram Foods and SunOpta).
What does all this say about the financial health of the food & beverage industry?
“In 2022, inflationary pressures compounded by continued supply chain disruptions took a toll on profitability in the consumer packaged goods arena,” says Erin Lash, consumer sector director at Morningstar Inc. (www.morningstar.com). “While firms pursued multiple tactics to blunt the hit (including raising prices, extracting excess costs and forgoing unnecessary spending), it was insufficient to entirely stem the degradation in margins.
“However,” she continues, “consumers proved resilient, and at a high level, volumes held up better than expected based on the degree of pricing that firms took. This result likely reflects increased and more timely investments in consumer-valued innovation and marketing made by firms across the industry.”
Margins weren’t degraded for everybody, counters Gary Stibel, founder and CEO of New England Consulting Group (www.necg.net).
“The smart food and beverage money has had a great run over the past two years as input cost inflation and supply chain shortages opened the door for pricing that had been closed tight by the retail trade,” he says. “Those few companies that underperformed did so because they were worshipping at the altar of backward-looking price elasticity studies and simply couldn’t raise prices fast enough to catch up with cost increases.”
Before we get too deeply into this, let us explain our Top 100 numbers — which you won’t find anywhere else. Most of this analysis will focus on the first two columns of the table on pages 30-31. Those columns represent only the sales of value-added/consumer-ready foods and beverages produced in U.S. and Canadian factories. Total, global sales of these companies are in column three. Most of the figures are from calendar year 2022, but a few companies have different fiscal years.
There were some stars in 2022, and it was especially the big, blue-chip companies that did well. The biggest increase, more than $5.8 billion, belonged to No. 2 Tyson. And the animal protein processor also earned a handsome $3.2 billion last year. However, its fiscal year ended Oct. 2 of last year, and the months since have not been kind.
In the first six months of its fiscal 2023 (through April 1 of this year) Tyson’s sales were up a scant 1% and the second quarter had a surprise $49 million operating loss instead of the billion-dollar operating profit of the previous year’s second quarter.
Perennial No. 1 PepsiCo did not lag far behind Tyson’s 2022 jump, with a gain of more than $5 billion. “To put it simply, 2022 was a stellar year for PepsiCo,” Chairman and CEO Ramon Laguarta wrote in his introduction to the annual report. “Despite another dynamic period that featured difficult and unpredictable circumstances, we delivered our best financial performance in a decade.”
Soda rival Coca-Cola Co. did well, too: North American sales (the figure we focus on) were up nearly $2.5 billion, keeping pace with the company’s global sales growth of $4.5 billion.
At Nestle USA and Canada (sales up $2.6 billion), Purina PetCare was the largest contributor to organic growth, with most of the momentum coming from premium brands Purina Pro Plan, Purina One and Fancy Feast. Sales in coffee grew at a high single-digit rate, with growth across brands and geographies, supported by a strong recovery of out-of-home channels. Sales of Starbucks products grew by 12.9% to nearly $3.9 billion.
Bimbo Bakeries North America gained nearly $2 billion, although helped in part by a strengthening of the Mexican peso vs. the American dollar (we do the currency conversions). General Mills’ North American retail sales jumped $1.1 billion, with smaller but noteworthy increases in pet foods and North American foodservice helping to offset a 16% decline in international sales. Lactalis American Group took a leap of $1 billion thanks to the end-of-2021 purchase of Kraft Heinz’s cheese business.
Also gaining more than $1 billion in revenues were JBS USA, Smithfield Foods, Hormel, Pilgrim’s Pride, Mondelez, Saputo, Hershey, Dairy Farmers of America, Perdue, Grassland Dairy and Cal-Maine.
Cal-Maine is worth some focus. Remember when the price of eggs hit $6 a dozen early this year? The country’s biggest egg producer nearly doubled its revenue, and its profits went up sixfold in its fiscal-year 2023, which just ended June 3. Sales were $3.146 billion, a record for the company. Another record was the $757 million in net income, up from $132 million in FY2022 and far from the paltry $2 million profit in FY2021.
For most of the red-ink companies, the main drags were recent acquisitions that have tanked. New England Consulting’s Stibel observes, “A few [companies] were shortsighted, making ill-advised acquisitions, launching costly innovation and simply failing to read the tea leaves when it came to vegetable meat analogs and other short-term fads.”
That’s the story for J.M. Smucker, Constellation Brands, TreeHouse Foods and Maple Leaf Foods.
Smucker jumped into pet foods in 2015, paying $5.8 billion for the $2.3 billion in sales of Big Heart Pet Brands, the former Del Monte business that included Gravy Train and Meow Mix. With the later acquisition of Rachel Ray Nutrish, pet foods represented nearly a third of Smucker’s sales. But profits were hard to come by, and most of the business was sold early this year to Post Holdings for $1.2 billion.
Constellation’s problem was a marijuana addiction. Starting in 2018, it began buying into Canadian cannabis-products maker Canopy Growth, investing billions on the assumption that cannabis quickly would be legalized nationally in the U.S. and just as quickly might supplant a significant share of Constellation’s beer and alcohol sales. Neither has occurred. Last year, Constellation took an impairment of just over a billion dollars to write down the value of its 40% stake in Canopy.
Private label powerhouse TreeHouse Foods was created by acquisitions, but has been reversing course lately, as some look haphazardly executed in hindsight. After a couple of years of disappointing results, the founder/chairman/CEO Sam Reed was replaced in 2018 by Steve Oakland, who has whittled the company down from well over $6 billion to $3.5 billion but has endured two consecutive years of red ink.
After “exploring strategic alternatives” since November of 2021, the company is focusing on the snack and beverage categories. In one fell swoop, TreeHouse shed $1.6 billion in sales in late 2022 by selling its meal preparation business. Oakland told us at the time it was probably the last big step toward a smaller, more manageable and hopefully more profitable TreeHouse.
Maple Leaf Foods jumped into the plant-based meat analog category with the early-2017 purchase of Lightlife Foods from Brynwood Partners, subsequently creating the Greenleaf subsidiary. By late 2021, the company was reconsidering that investment. "We are seeing a marked slowdown in the plant-based protein category performance which may suggest systemic change in the extremely high growth rates expected by the industry,” Executive Chair and CEO Michael McCain wrote in the company's third-quarter 2021 results.
While that business continues to be critically evaluated, Maple Leaf continues to operate it, although it has “aggressively scaled back expenses, reduced headcount by 25%, and initiated supply chain optimization,” and is “repurposing the under-utilized capacity towards opportunities in meat protein.”
Where we get our numbers
The Food Processing Top 100© is based on numbers you won't find anywhere else. We rank companies based on value-added/consumer-ready (but not necessarily branded or in final form) foods and beverages that were manufactured in U.S. and Canadian plants. That’s why No. 1 PepsiCo’s figure is $52 billion, not the $86 billion the company has in global sales. Cargill appears as a $15 billion meatpacker, not a $165 billion owner of ships, trains and iron ore mines around the globe. ADM is not on the chart at all. Monster Beverage Corp., even at $4 billion or so in sales, is not on this list (the company manufactures none of its own beverages, all are done by co-packers).
It's tough enough to figure out the sales of value-added, consumer-ready, U.S. and Canadian self-manufactured foods and beverages for the public companies; for the private companies, we rely on their statements to us and other public reports about their finances or the general health of their business and category. We use the most recent fiscal year available; if not marked, that's calendar 2022.