Editor's Plate: Food and Beverage Processors Had a Blowout Year

Aug. 9, 2022
When it comes to the top food and beverage processors in the U.S. and Canada for 2022, Editor in Chief Dave Fusaro points out 2021 was a great year for finances, but 2022 will be difficult.

Food Processing's Top 100© is our biggest research project of the year and mostly my baby. I'm a former business writer and I like the (mostly) unassailable truths that numbers bring.

Unlike most of our other stories, which often present differing opinions on a subject from several experts, hopefully covering the entire landscape of a given topic, the Top 100 is all facts; hard numbers in black and sometimes red ink that provides an objective and quantitative look at where the food & beverage industry stands, or at least stood, at the start of the new year.

This year we have one of the most positive reports of recent years. 56 of these 100 companies saw sales increases in 2021; only 13 saw decreases. Net income was up for 32 of them, down for 17. Only three reported net losses.

It wasn't that long ago (in our 2019 report) that we carried a table that showed eight of the 18 largest companies were suffering through three consecutive years of lower sales. Some of them extended that dubious distinction to five years. Most of them have righted their ships since then.

It's enlightening to look at our previous five headlines:

As we say in our cover story, all of the top companies in the meat and soft drink categories had blowout years, adding billions of dollars to their top lines and similarly handsome increases to their bottom lines.

Big Food is indeed back. But with most of these numbers coming from 2021 – buoyed in part by the sudden return of foodservice and the winding down of the pandemic – it will be a tough act to follow. Add to that this year's supply chain problems plus inflation plus possible recession, and I'm not sure next year's Top 100 will be anything worth celebrating.

Where we get our numbers

Food Processing's 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 $47 billion, not the $79 billion the company has in global sales. Cargill appears as a $10 billion meat packer, not a $134 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 $5 billion or so in sales, is not on this list because the company manufactures none of its own beverages; all are done by copackers.

With that narrow a definition, it's tough enough to figure the sales of 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 2021.

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